Co-author Dr. Emily Bernhardt, of Duke University, explains that "The chemicals released into streams from valley fills contain a variety of ions and trace metals which are toxic or debilitating for many organisms, which explains why biodiversity is reduced below valley fills." The authors provide evidence that mine reclamation and mitigation practices have not prevented the contaminants from moving into downstream waters.
The authors also describe human health impacts associated with surface mining for coal in the Appalachian region, including elevated rates of mortality, lung cancer, and chronic heart, lung and kidney disease in coal producing communities.
"Over the last 30 years, there has been a global increase in surface mining, and it is now the dominant driver of land-use change in the Central Appalachian region," says Dr. Keith Eshleman also of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. "We now know that surface mining has extraordinary consequences for both aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. Notwithstanding recent attempts to improve reclamation, the immense scale of mountaintop mining makes it unrealistic to think that true restoration or mitigation is possible with current techniques."
The scientists argue that regulators should no longer ignore rigorous science. "Mining permits are being issued despite the preponderance of scientific evidence that impacts are pervasive and irreversible and that mitigation cannot compensate for losses. Considering environmental impacts of MTM/VF, in combination with evidence that the health of people living in surface-mining regions of the central Appalachians may be compromised by mining activities, we conclude that MTM/VF permits should not be granted unless new methods can be subjected to rigorous peer-review and shown to rem
|Contact: Christopher Conner|
University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science