MTR update: EPA study confirms mining damage

April 5, 2010 by Ken Ward Jr.


Gazette photo by Chris Dorst

If anyone missed it over the holiday weekend,we ran a Sunday story that outlined the findings of a new U.S. EPA report that confirms previous scientific conclusions about the environmental damage from mountaintop removal coal mining.

The story, EPA study confirms damage from strip mining, reported that government scientists say a “growing body of evidence” shows that mountaintop removal coal mining is destroying Appalachian forests and dangerously polluting vital headwater streams.

It’s based on the EPA report, The Effects of Mountaintop Mines and Valley Fills on Aquatic Ecosystems of the Central Appalachian Coalfields, which was released last week when EPA proposed new guidelines to try to reduce water pollution from large-scale strip mining in Appalachia.

8 Responses to “MTR update: EPA study confirms mining damage”

  1. cindy rank says:


    Thank you for high-lighting this report now out for public review and comment. It is far too important to only appear referenced within your earlier longer posts about recent EPA actions.

    Will you also be doing a separate post to high-light the second document EPA has put out for review … i.e. A Field-Based Aquatic Life Benchmark for Conductivity in Central Appalachian Streams (External Review Draft) ???

  2. Ken Ward Jr. says:


    You’re welcome. While the report is mostly a literature review, that sort of a scientific review is always interesting and helpful to understand what is known and not known.

    On the conductivity study, I need to read it more closely, but I’m sure we’re going to be writing more about it.

    Faces of Coal is apparently running some ads that say the conductivity numbers EPA has spelled out “are impossible to meet” and I’m interested in what evidence they have for that statement — and also interested in any comments from other readers who have some insight into that particular question.


  3. Jason Robinson says:

    If anyone has seen a link to the figure comparing Pellegrino and Perrier mineral water to the EPA standards please share!

  4. armored face conveyor says:

    Here is a link that says Perrier is 700 uS/cm though you have to read through it and they only carry one significant digit.
    Here is another report which lists Evian as 482uS/cm.
    Pellegrino appears to be the overall winner at 1292.


  5. Leon Wood says:

    What I have seen is that conductivity occurs naturally in varying levels I have seen streams that have no disturbance what so ever in them with a conductivity of over a 1000 and a very healthy aquatic system. I have also seen streams where mining has been ongoing for years with a conductivity of less than 300 with a very healthy aquatic system. Conductivity can be made up many different agents some good and some not so good. A conductivity of 1500 from calcuim is much different than a conductivity of 500 from aresinc. So a set level can not be used it must have limits set for the agent which is causing the increased level. Not all conductivity is bad. Also you must remeber EPA said guidelines not reglutation standards. Guidelines cannot be legally enforced.

  6. Jason Robinson says:

    AFC thanks for that. Do you have any links to where that information has been used by coal company or media outlets?

    Leon’s point is important, I have seen conductivity explained in multiple places as “a measure of the salts in the water”. while technically that is true it’s misleading in the same ways that the mineral water example is misleading.

    leon do you have any idea how these guidelines get implemented into legally enforceable regulation standards? does this happen after the interim rules are finalized?

  7. jpd22 says:

    It’s not just the conductivity in your bottled water that is at issue here. Remember, the EPA guidelines speak to a specific matrix of ions, predominately sulfate-bicarbonate-mangnesium, but conductivity is a cheap, instantaeneous, and accurate indicator of those salts. It does not apply to a sodium chloride type matrix. Spring water from a bottle doesnt have barely any sulfate. The sulfate concentration that comes out of a valleyfill would give everyone severe diarhea and has been known to kill cattle that drink too much of it (through dehydration). Children and elderly folks drinking high sulfate water would be at high risk once diarhea led to dehydration.

  8. Marvin Vernatter says:

    Another flash flood and another commission formed. The cycle goes on, perhaps there are a series of disconnects preventing progress.

    Disconnect 1, lack of serious promotion for land in the post mining land use inventory.

    Disconnect 2, lack of flood control and water quality improvement techniques utilized in post mining land use planning and design.

Leave a Reply