Charleston, W.Va. -- A protester chained himself to a barrel of contaminated water at the West Virginia Governors Mansion Wednesday morning, demanding a meeting with Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin.
Protesters with the environmental group Radical Action for Mountain People's Survival arrived at the mansion just before noon.
Dressed in hiking boots, wool socks and a white jumpsuit with "Locked to dirty water" painted on the back, David Baghdadi of Rock Creek, Raleigh County, chained his leg and neck to a plastic barrel before inserting his right arm into the container and locking it inside.
It took emergency personnel more than two hours to remove Baghdadi from the Governor's Mansion steps.
Baghdadi, 36, didn't speak much to reporters, deferring questions to fellow RAMPS protesters Glen Collins and Junior Walk, who remained on the sidewalk off the Governor's Mansion property.
Collins, 25, of Whitesville, said the barrel was filled with water from the Coal River watershed that had been contaminated by coal slurry.
The protesters said Baghdadi would remain locked to the barrel until Tomblin agreed to meet with Walk, a Raleigh County native who says he is a victim of coal slurry pollution.
Walk, 23, also of Rock Creek, said when he was growing up, the tap water at his home was orange from pollution by nearby slurry ponds and, as a result, he now suffers from gastrointestinal problems.
Coal slurry is a byproduct of coal mining operations. It is created when coal preparation plants wash coal with water and chemicals before it is sold. The process is meant to remove rock, clay and other non-combustible products from the coal.
Coal operations keep this byproduct in impoundment ponds. Many worry chemicals from this slurry are seeping into communities' water supply, contaminating it. Others are concerned about the safety of the huge dams used to contain the slurry impoundments.
Lawrence Messina, spokesman for the state Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, said the protesters could have met with the governor had they followed the proper channels. He said Tomblin is easily accessible, as long as meetings are scheduled with his office.
"There's a process to follow when someone wants to speak to the governor. A reporter can't show up here banging on the door," Messina, who was formerly the Associated Press's statehouse reporter, said. "There's a process, and the process is not being followed here."