Acid Mine Drainage

Charleston Gazette
August 14, 1992

State Targets Acid Drainage For Cleanup

By Paul Nyden
Staff Writer

At least $14 million will be dedicated on treating acid drainage from coal mining during the next four years under a new West Virginia Streams Restoration Program announced Thursday by Gov. Gaston Caperton.

Acid water kills fish and other aquatic life, in effect putting streams off limits for fishing and other recreational uses.

Iron and acid pollution from mines has recently threatened city water supplies in places like Morgantown and Buckhannon. In some Southern West Virginia coal towns, streams and well water are undrinkable.

The restoration program will be the state's first comprehensive program dedicated to treating mine- polluted water.

"Acid mine drainage from abandoned coal mines is a major source of water pollution in West Virginia. It is estimated that more than 1,900 miles of West Virginia streams and rivers are [affected] by acid mine drainage," Caperton said.

"The problem is severe enough to render miles of streams devoid of life. In many instances, these streams were once among West Virginia's most valuable scenic and recreational water resources. The Blackwater River is a prime example," Caperton stated.

The Blackwater River above the town of Davis, the Middle Fork of the Buckhannon River and the North Branch of the Potomac are three likely choices for treatment under the new program.

"We definitely intend to open this up to public participation to determine which watersheds will get priorities for funding," said Tom Heywood, a senior aide to the governor.

Both federal and state funds will be used. States may currently use up to 10 percent of federal Abandoned Mine Lands funds for water treatment. Heywood said this will provide about $1.5 million a year, or $6 million over four years.

The state will kick in another $2 million a year, or $8 million over four years. Half of this would come from the state's Special Reclamation Fund. The rest will come from other administrative funds. Heywood said this may require some slight modifications in state laws.

In 1990, Congress allowed states to begin using up to 10 percent of their AML budgets for water projects, in addition to reclaiming and revegetating land. If Congress increases this to 25 percent, as several coal states hope, this would add another $7 million, for a total of $21 million over four years.

"We've got a problem with past mining and with some current mining," Heywood said. "Miles of streams are already devoid of life and others are dying, including some of the state's most scenic and recreational waters. This will allocate significant new [funds] toward stream restoration," Heywood said.

"The governor has been looking at this for some time," Heywood said. A framework for the Streams Restoration Program, which may include some new legislative proposals, will be completed by the end of August.

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