Mines, Runoff, Water, Contamination, Cleanup, Funding, Coal Mines, Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia, Pollution

Mines, Runoff

Some states could see funding to clean up water sources contaminated from mine runoff

'It's really hard to convince people to stay in a community where they don't think they'll have access to clean drinking water,' Elizabeth Klein said.

9/21/2021 1:47:00 AM

'It's really hard to convince people to stay in a community where they don't think they'll have access to clean drinking water,' Elizabeth Klein said.

'It's really hard to convince people to stay in a community where they don't think they'll have access to clean drinking water,' Elizabeth Klein said.

Some states could soon be seeing funding meant to clean up water sources that have been contaminated by runoff from thousands of abandoned coal mines, the Associated Press reported.Part of the Senate-passed infrastructure bill is $11.3 billion meant to boost cleanup efforts of defunct coal mines that have polluted rivers and streams for decades, sometimes harming fish and contaminating drinking water.

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According to the Interior Department, among states needing the funding are Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia. The money in the bill is meant to be distributed over 15 years, and experts said it would go a long way toward cleaning up mines that date to before 1977.

"The next 15 years—if this passes—is literally a historic advancement in mine reclamation," said Eric Dixon, a research fellow at the Ohio River Valley Institute.For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.Several states could see funding meant to aid in cleanup efforts for water sources polluted by coal mine runoff. Above, Cement Creek, which was flooded with millions of gallons of mining wastewater, is viewed on August 11, 2015, in Silverton, Colorado. headtopics.com

Theo Stroomer/Getty ImagesCleanup efforts are currently funded by fees from coal mining companies, but that money has fallen far short of what's needed to fix the problems.In the past 40 years, only about a quarter of the damage has been cleaned up, Dixon said.

Abandoned coal mines are concentrated along the Appalachian Mountains, with clusters also dotting the Midwest and Rocky Mountains. The sites can clog rivers with debris or pollute streams with harmful discharges caused by minerals exposed from mining, reducing fish populations and turning water brick red. Safety is another issue since people can topple into mineshafts and debris can fall from the mine's high walls.

Fees from companies to clean up the sites are collected under the Surface Mining and Reclamation Act of 1977, which sought to remedy the history of unregulated coal production that left abandoned mines around the country. Companies are now regulated so that sites are cleaned up once mining stops.

Pennsylvania—which needs the most funding in the country—has 5,500 miles of streams with impaired water quality due to runoff from abandoned mines, according to state officials.The problem has persisted for so long that some Pennsylvania residents are surprised when red streams in their backyard are finally cleaned up and change color, said John Stefanko of the Office of Active and Abandoned Mine Operations in Pennsylvania. headtopics.com

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"These are streams that you wouldn't want to walk through," he said, noting that the sediment from the mine runoff can come off on people.Another worry is property damage. In 2019, for example, a collapsed tunnel entrance blocked water from escaping an abandoned mine in Pennsylvania's Schuylkill County. State officials worried a rupture and deluge could threaten the houses downstream. Workers were able to fix the blocked tunnel.

The federal program that funds cleanups categorizes sites by priority, and those that pose a safety hazard to humans are bumped to the top of the list. Priority rankings can also rise if drinking water is affected. A site may be a lower priority if it only poses an environmental threat.

The infrastructure bill directs cleanup funds toward several priority groups. Read more: Newsweek »

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