Friday, October 15, 2010

Daily Dose of Sanity: Turning Headwaters into Toxic Sludge Dumps is Bad for Water and Wildlife -- EPA Administrator

Here's your daily dose of sanity, courtesy of EPA regional administrator Shawn Garvin, who has recommended that the agency veto a Clean Water Act permit for the massive Spruce No. 1 mountaintop removal coal mine in Logan County, W.Va.

Mr. Garvin's commonsensical rationale? Apparently burying several miles of pristine Appalachian headwaters and replacing them with landfill and a toxic sludge dump will adversely impact downstream waters and wildlife.

No sh&#!

The West Virgina Gazette's intrepid Ken Ward Jr. has the story:

EPA has posted a copy of Garvin’s recommendation here, and there are some companion documents online here. The recommendation concludes:
… Region III has determined that discharges of dredged and/or fill material to Pigeonroost Branch and Oldhouse Branch for the purpose of constructing the Spruce No. 1 Surface Mine as currently authorized … would likely have unacceptable adverse effects on wildlife … [the permit] authorizes construction of valley fills and sedimentation ponds and other discharges into Pigeonroost Branch and Oldhouse Branch that will bury approximately 6.6 miles of high quality headwater streams.

… Burial of Pigeonroost Branch and Oldhouse Branch would likely result in effects to downstream waters and downstream wildlife caused by the removal of functions performed by the buried resources and by transformation of the buried areas into sources that contribute contaminants to downstream waters. In addition, currently authorized discharges to Pigeonroost Branch and Oldhouse Branch would be likely to contribute to conditions that would support blooms of algae that release toxins that kill fish and other aquatic life …
The regional EPA administrator also concluded:
… Because construction of the Spruce No. 1 Mine and 11 additional mining operations would increase the percent of the sub-basin that is impacted by mining activity, it can be expected that these water quality effects will likely be exacerbated by these additional mines. EPA believes that the Spruce No. 1 Mine project, in conjunction with the other mining operations either under construction or proposed for the Coal River sub-basin, will be likely to contribute to the significant cumulative loss of aquatic resources and degradation of water quality.
This isn't the end of the line for the controversial mountaintop removal project. EPA took pains to be clear that the agency "has not reached a final decision on this project," and promised to next "reach out to the mining company, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and West Virginia State officials to engage in discussions about potential actions that can be taken to reduce impacts on the environment and to the waters that Appalachian communities depend on for drinking, swimming and fishing."

Here's an idea: don't blow the tops off of mountains and dump their dessicated remains onto your headwaters valleys! We'll see if sanity prevails...

Update: more sanity from 50 members of Congress who wrote the EPA to support a stronger stance on protecting clean waters from the impacts of mountaintop removal mining operations, and to recommend the EPA's veto of the Spruce No. 1 mine. More here.

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