The Effects of Mountaintop Mines and Valley Fills on Aquatic Ecosystems of the Central Appalachian Coalfields (2011 Final)
EPA announced the availability of the final report. [May 27, 2011]
This report assesses the state of the science on the environmental impacts of Mountaintop Mines and Valley Fills (MTM-VF) on streams in the Central Appalachian Coalfields. These coalfields cover about 48,000 square kilometers (122 million acres) in West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee, USA. Our reviews focused on the impacts on mountaintop removal coal mining, which as its name suggests, involves removing all or some portion of the top of a mountain or ridge to expose and mine one or more coal seams. The excess overburden is disposed of in constructed fills in small valleys or hollows adjacent to the mining site.
Our conclusions, based on evidence from the peer-reviewed literature and from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement released in 2005, are that Mountaintop Mines and Valley Fills lead directly to five principal alterations of stream ecosystems:
- Springs and ephemeral, intermittent and perennial streams are permanently lost with the removal of the mountain and from burial under fill,
- concentrations of major chemical ions are persistently elevated downstream,
- degraded water quality reaches levels that are acutely lethal to organisms in standard aquatic toxicity tests,
- selenium concentrations are elevated, reaching concentrations that have caused toxic effects in fish and birds, and
- macroinvertebrate and fish communities are consistently degraded.
- Loss of headwater resources;
- Impacts on water quality;
- Impacts from aquatic toxicity;
- Impacts on aquatic ecosystems
- Cumulative impacts of multiple mining operations; and
- Effectiveness of on-site reclamation and mitigation activities.
|Mar 2010||EPA released the external review draft report for public review and comment. [Federal Register April 12, 2010]|
|Apr 2011||EPA released the final report.|
|May 2011||EPA announced the availability of the final report. [May 27, 2011]|
- (153 pp, 8 MB, about PDF)