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Public drinking water violations in mountaintop coal mining areas of West Virginia, USA
Hendryx, M., F. A. FULK, AND A. McGinley. Public drinking water violations in mountaintop coal mining areas of West Virginia, USA. Water Quality, Exposure and Health. Springer, New York, NY, 4(3):169-175, (2012).
The objective of this research is to support the Office of Water’s goals under the Clean Water Act, address the specific recommendations of the National Research Council for integrated watershed research, and contribute to the USEPA's "Environmental Indicators Initiative" to improve the Agency's ability to report on the status of and trends in environmental conditions and their impacts on the nation's natural resources. Task 8734 supports research to characterize the condition of aquatic resources and responses of aquatic assemblages and ecosystem processes to anthropogenic disturbance. These methods and indicators will be applied at multiple spatial and temporal scales. They will be evaluated for their statistical properties and their ability to detect specific stressors, mixtures, landscape and riparian measures of watershed disturbance, and early indicators of restoration and recovery.
Mountaintop coal mining (MTM) has adverse impacts on surface and ground water quality. Instances of domestic well water contamination from mining activities have been documented, but possible mining impacts on public water treatment systems are unknown. We analyzed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Safe Drinking Water Information System to examine the number, type, and duration of water treatment violations for public water facilities in West Virginia for the years 2001-2009. Violations were compared between three groups of counties--counties with mountaintop coal mining (n=14), counties with coal mining other than mountaintop mining (n=19), and counties without coal mining (n=22). There were a total of 482 public water systems and 17,362 violations statewide in West Virginia for the years 2001-2009. Mountaintop mining (MTM) areas contained 33% of the state's water treatment systems and had 73% of the water treatment violations. After controlling statistically for system size and water source, there were significantly more log transformed violations per system in the MTM areas compared to other mining and non-mining areas, and the duration of violations was significantly longer in MTM areas as well. The excess violations in MTM counties were most often related to failure to conduct required sampling for organic compounds. Because of the detrimental impacts of MTM on surface and ground water parameters, incomplete information on public water quality in MTM areas is of concern and raises questions of environmental justice. Complete sampling and reporting of public drinking water quality in MTM areas is needed.