Category: Environment

New Map Provides Comprehensive Graphic of Coal Ash’s Groundwater Pollution at State Power Plants

While some electric utilities in some other southeastern U.S. states are moving millions of tons of toxic coal ash away from waterways and into lined landfills, those in Alabama are holding fast to plans to corral their toxic material in unlined pits at their present locations, an option labeled cap-in-place.

Four nonprofit environmental groups this week released a new ineractive map they say shows the potential danger of the cap-in-place strategy chosen in the state by Alabama Power Company, PowerSouth Energy Cooperative, and the Tennessee Valley Authority. The maps, based on results of the utilities’ federally required tests of groundwater pollution near the facilities, show where arsenic, molybdenum, and other chemicals persist at levels that exceed government-set standards.

While the information has been available on the utilities’ websites, it previously has not been aggregated graphically in map form.
Read more.

Controversial Coal Mine at Dovertown Wins 5-Year Permit Renewal, Can’t Use Brownfield Portion Without Pollution Plan

The Alabama Surface Mining Commission issued a permit renewal last week for Mays Mining Company’s Mine No. 5 on the Mulberry Fork. But the company has to meet multiple court-ordered and other conditions before beginning to operate at the site near the Dovertown community.

Gary Hosmer, a Dovertown resident who has led the 14 year-long local opposition to mining in the 200-resident Walker County community, said, “We’re going to fight it as far as we can, and then some.”

The mine site is about five miles upstream of a major intake pipe that supplies the Birmingham Water Works Board and serves 200,000 customers. The water works has said the mining is a threat to the area’s drinking water quality. The utility went to Jefferson County Circuit Court to stop the mine from operating on the Black Warrior tributary, and officials said in a statement, “We are reviewing the (commission’s) decision and evaluating the BWWB’s options.” Read more.

Judge in Historic Ruling Says Drummond Violating Clean Water Act Because of Ongoing Discharge From Closed Mine

The acid coal mine drainage at Maxine Mine on the Locust Fork is ugly, with discordant orange, yellow, red and purple hues that contrast with verdant spring growth on adjacent riverbanks and bluffs.

Nearby residents of this Black Warrior River tributary in north Jefferson County, close to the community of Praco on Flat Top Road, call the abandoned mine “a mess,” a place devoid of fish and most other aquatic life and given a wide berth by boaters and swimmers. It’s where algae blooms proliferate in a slough rife with sediment washing from the mountain of mine waste that has accumulated since the early 1950s.

And it’s a site that made Alabama history May 7 when a federal judge ruled that its owner, Drummond Company, was in violation of the U.S. Clean Water Act for continuously polluting the Locust Fork with acid drainage. In a suit brought by nonprofit Black Warrior Riverkeeper, U.S. District Judge Abdul Kallon issued a summary judgment against Drummond, dismissing the coal company’s assertion that the law does not apply to pollution from waste after mine operations ended.

It was the first time the federal act was used to successfully sue the owner of an abandoned mine for polluting an Alabama waterway. Read more.

The River ‘Flows Through My Veins:’ Voices From the Locust Fork Tributary of the Black Warrior River

Funding to Make Abandoned Coal Mines Safer Could Disappear Soon

Funding to Make Abandoned Coal Mines Safer Could Disappear Soon

U.S. District Judge Abdul Kallon eventually will determine how Drummond Co. must keep its Maxine Mine from polluting the Locust Fork with acid mine drainage. Regardless of the method used, the cost almost certainly will run into the millions of dollars.

The size and complexity of the more than six-decade-old site would make stopping or treating pollution “very, very challenging” regardless of the method used, according to Dustin Morin, the inspector for the Alabama Department of Labor’s Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Program.

The program administers the federal AML program and addresses the most dangerous problems resulting from coal mining that occurred before passage of the U.S. Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977. Read more.

Judge in Historic Ruling Says Drummond Violating Clean Water Act Because of Ongoing Discharge From Closed Mine

The River ‘Flows Through My Veins:’ Voices From the Locust Fork Tributary of the Black Warrior River

The River ‘Flows Through My Veins:’ Voices From the Locust Fork Tributary of the Black Warrior River

People who live on the Locust Fork near the Maxine mine say runoff from that long-closed site has ruined their boating and fishing, endangered their livelihoods and damaged their enjoyment of their homes.

Its for those people and many others who visit the river that the mine site needs to be cleaned up, said Black Warrior Riverkeeper staff attorney Eva Dillard.

“People live along the Locust Fork, they know about this site and worry about it every time they boat or fish on the river. They have to think about what that site generates and puts into the river, how it might affect their lives and their property values.”

In court documents, several people living along or near the Locust Fork registered objections to the pollution of the river from Maxine Mine. Here are some of their comments. Read more.

Judge in Historic Ruling Says Drummond Violating Clean Water Act Because of Ongoing Discharge From Closed Mine

Funding to Make Abandoned Coal Mines Safer Could Disappear Soon

Water Water Everywhere … Unless It Hasn’t Rained Lately: Legislators Debate Bill to Govern Water Use During Droughts

River advocacy groups are promoting passage of a bill that would provide clear standards in times of drought for the state to step in to allocate use of water for agriculture, recreation, drinking and other uses.

The bill, HB 476, also would set up a system of “conservation credits” for agricultural and other large water users who institute water-saving measures before periods of drought.

Under the bill, when water flow in a river or stream falls below predetermined, science-based levels, state agencies could more quickly impose limits on usage to protect the health of the waterway. That would impact the quality of water for drinking, recreation and aquatic life, advocates say.

Meanwhile, farmers are concerned that the bill could let the state cut back on their water use just when they need it most.
The bill is awaiting action in a committee. Read more.

Hank Black Inducted Into UA Student Media’s Wall of Fame for His Service in Journalism

BirminghamWatch’s Hank Black was inducted into the Wall of Fame for the University of Alabama’s Office of Student Media during an event April 26.

Black, who covers the environment for BW, was honored for his role as editor in chief of the Crimson White during one of the most turbulent years in the university’s history. Black was editor in 1963, when Vivian Malone and James Hood became the first two black students to successfully enroll at UA, following Gov. George Wallace’s infamous “Stand in the Schoolhouse Door.” Read more.