EPA Science Inventory

The Effects of Mountaintop Mines and Valley Fills on Aquatic Ecosystems of the Central Appalachian Coalfields (2011 Final)

Notice:

EPA announced the availability of the final report. [May 27, 2011]

Citation:

U.S. EPA. The Effects of Mountaintop Mines and Valley Fills on Aquatic Ecosystems of the Central Appalachian Coalfields (2011 Final). U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, EPA/600/R-09/138F, 2011.

Description:

Cover of the Mountaintop Mines and Valley Fills Central Appalachian Coalfields Final Report 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:

  1. Springs and ephemeral, intermittent and perennial streams are permanently lost with the removal of the mountain and from burial under fill,
  2. concentrations of major chemical ions are persistently elevated downstream,
  3. degraded water quality reaches levels that are acutely lethal to organisms in standard aquatic toxicity tests,
  4. selenium concentrations are elevated, reaching concentrations that have caused toxic effects in fish and birds, and
  5. macroinvertebrate and fish communities are consistently degraded.

Purpose/Objective:

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.

URLs/Downloads:

FR Notice: May 27, 2011   Exit

The Effects of Mountaintop Mines and Valley Fills on Aquatic Ecosystems of the Central Appalachian Coalfields (EPA/600/R-09/138F)   (PDF,153 pp, 7991 KB,  about PDF)

Record Details:

Record Type: DOCUMENT (PUBLISHED REPORT/REPORT)
Start Date: 05/27/2011
Completion Date: 05/27/2011
Record Last Revised: 07/20/2015
Record Created: 06/30/2010
Record Released: 06/30/2010
OMB Category: Influential
Record ID: 225743

Organization:

U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

OFFICE OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT

NATIONAL CENTER FOR ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT

IMMEDIATE OFFICE

GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE STAFF