Ecological Impacts of Mountaintop Removal

The Appalachian region is home to one of the oldest and most biologically diverse mountain systems on the continent. Tragically, mountaintop removal mining has already destroyed more than 500 mountains encompassing 1.2 million acres of central and southern Appalachia.

Mining companies detonate approximately 2,500 tons of explosives daily, equal to a Hiroshima-strength atomic bomb on a weekly basis (Excel document). After mountaintops are blasted apart, they are dumped into neighboring valleys, causing a whole host of damaging environmental impacts.

Water

The EPA estimates that mountaintop removal valley fills are responsible for burying and polluting nearly 2,000 miles of vital Appalachian headwater streams. Water downstream of mountaintop removal operations has shown significant increases in conductivity and hardness as well as sulfate and selenium concentrations. (EPA)

The intention of the federal Clean Water Act is to eliminate additional water pollution, not to allow Appalachian headwater streams to be buried beneath mining waste. But in 2002, the George W. Bush Administration reclassify mining waste as permissible “fill material” under section 404 of the Clean Water Act (CWA), which created the loophole to allow the dumping of mountaintop removal waste into streams.

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