Coal River Valley, West Virginia is a community surrounded by lush mountains and a looming toxic threat. Filmed over a period of five years, ON COAL RIVER follows a former miner and his neighbors in a David-and-Goliath struggle for the future of their valley, their children, and life as they know it.
Ed Wiley once worked at the same coal plant that threatens his granddaughter's elementary school. When his local government refuses to act, Ed embarks on a quest to have the school relocated to safer ground. With a sharp sense of right and wrong, Ed confronts his local school board, the state government, and a notorious coal company for putting his granddaughter and his community at risk.
Along the way, Ed is helped by his neighbors Bo and Judy, who are locked in their own battle with the company over their practice of 'mountaintop removal' - blowing up mountains to extract coal. Together, Bo and Judy help Ed bring attention to the dangers at Marsh Fork Elementary, hoping that if they save the school, they can save the valley.