Cambrian Coal permit to pollute challenged | Kentuckians For The Commonwealth

Cambrian Coal permit to pollute challenged

KFTC, the Sierra Club and the Appalachian Citizens Law Center have joined outdoor enthusiasts and paddlers to challenge a mining permit granted in April to Cambrian Coal that allows the company to add to the pollution levels in several streams in Pike County.

Under the permit, Cambrian Coal will discharge mining waste into tributaries of Elkhorn Creek, Marrowbone Creek and Pond Creek, all of which are tributaries of Russell Fork, a major tourism attraction and destination for many paddlers.

whitewater-kayaker"For the past 7 years, I have participated in the Russell Fork Whitewater Rendezvous," said Bill Pierskalla, a Sierra Club member and whitewater paddler. "If the proposed mine goes forward, I am concerned that people like myself will stop visiting Elkhorn City and paddling Russell Fork out of concern that the mining has polluted the water beyond safe limits."

The 792-acre Cambrian Coal surface mine, located near Elkhorn City, would severely jeopardize creek quality as well as land preservation, making recreational use of the area a less attractive option for tourists. The operation will create seven new valley fills and significantly expand two existing ones in order to dispose of 15 million cubic yards of mining wastes.

"I grew up along Elkhorn Creek, I've hiked and fished in that area for years. As a child I used to swim in the creek, but now I am concerned that surface mining in this area has started to degrade the water to an unsafe level," said aquatic biologist and local resident James Stapleton.

Recently the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released new water conductivity standards in order to protect water and the health of surrounding communities. Water testing downstream of Cambrian's existing mines in the area has found the water to be far above EPA's conductivity standards.

The state's granting of the permit did not take into consideration that more pollution would add to the cumulative levels of the impacted streams, some sections of which are already too polluted to support their designated uses.

"I see no way this proposed mining operation could meet the requirements of the recent EPA guidance concerning conductivity.  Already the area is above the recommended federal clean water standards," said Rick Clewett of the Cumberland Sierra Club.  "We should not be adding pollution to the area but cleaning it up.  Additional mining could potentially eliminate the prospects for that community being able to succeed in their current efforts to develop and expand an economy based on water recreation and fishing."

"Water is the back bone of our economy here in Elkhorn City. And at the end of the day, we need people to keep visiting our area to recreate and support our local businesses," said Stapleton.

A copy of the Petition is available here.

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