Widespread Stream Contamination from Coal Mining Prompts Groups to Act
March 17, 2010
On March 15, Sierra Club and its coalfield allies took action to protect Kentucky’s waterways from the impacts of destructive coal mining. Sierra Club, Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, Public Justice, and Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to rescind Kentucky’s authority and take over the Clean Water Act pollution permitting program in the state. The EPA delegated clean water permitting authority to the Kentucky Division of Water, but retains the ability to withdraw this approval if the Division fails to adequately protect the state’s waters. Bowing to pressure from the coal industry and suffering from a lack of resources, Kentucky’s clean water program has completely failed to prevent the widespread contamination of state waters by coal mines.
Kentucky Division of Water data shows that nearly 2,500 miles of streams already fail to meet water quality standards, and the Division has identified coal mining as the suspected pollution source. Streams are also being polluted under the radar as a result of the Division’s lax or sometimes non-existent water standards and pollution permit requirements. Kentucky’s water permitting and enforcement program is significantly underfunded; only four permit writers develop and review more than 2,300 permits in the state. The Division requires almost no water testing and regularly issues permits that fail to address key toxic pollutants associated with coal mining - such as selenium and aluminum. As a result the toxicity of downstream waters in recent testing was between 3 and 55 times higher than state standards.
Coal mining has devastating impacts on waterways throughout Appalachia. In June 2009, Sierra Club and its coalfield allies filed a similar petition in West Virginia, urging the EPA to take over West Virginia’s clean water permitting program to ensure better protection of the state’s waterways and communities.
Details and Documents:
Groups Ask EPA to Revoke Kentucky’s Clean Water Authority
March 15, 2010, Sierra Club et al. Press Release
Petition for Withdrawal of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Program Delegation from the State of Kentucky
March 15, 2010, Sierra Club et al.
Petition for Withdrawal of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Program Delegation from the State of West Virginia
June 17, 2009, Sierra Club et al.
Petition asks EPA to take over part of Ky. enforcement of Clean Water Act
March 15, 2010 by James Bruggers, courier-journal.com
EPA report: Streams near mining toxic
March 15, 2010 by Ken Ward Jr., The Charleston Gazette
See other "Stopping Mountaintop Removal and Other Destructive Mining" cases.