Don Owens
Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation
Division of Water Pollution Control Mining Section
2700 Middlebrook Pike, Suite 220
Knoxville, Tennessee 37921-5602

Mr. Owens:

The Sierra Club asks that TDEC reject the proposed NPDES Permit TN0072842 which could clearly cause significant pollution of the waters of the state, including the waters within Catoosa Wildlife Management Area (WMA), and of the Obed National Wild and Scenic River (NWSR).  The permit and past history of coal mining at the site and at other sites within the same coal seam clearly show that wastewater from the proposed deep mine of  Cumberland Coal Company, LLC, Turner Mine 2, is not likely to be well controlled.  Further, as the deep shaft mine has been permitted without adequate study of water and other environmental impacts which might accrue from the mining activity itself, we ask that
TDEC initiate Environmental Impact Studies of both potential impacts of the mining operation and of wastewater discharge from that operation.

In the permit, the wastewater discharge from mining is assigned to the wrong watershed, the Emory River watershed, while the streams which would receive the load are actually in the Obed NWSR watershed.  This is a very significant error which negates any validity of the NPDES permit.

The permit is written to allow discharge of the mine wastewater into treatment lagoons, or "basins", which are documented to be leaking.  The lagoons have been subject to Notices of Violation and fines by TDEC. Attempts by Cumberland Coal Company to correct the faulty lagoons, undertaken over the past two years, have thus far been unsuccessful.  No permit can defensibly be issued to Cumberland Coal Company until these lagoons have been repaired or replaced.

Mining of the Sewanee seam has almost always produced acid mine drainage and perpetually leaking mines.  TDEC has ample data which proves that pollution of waterways is occuring from the Cumberland Coal Company site, and from many other mining sites in the Sewanee Seam.   No clear justification is given in the permit to show that further pollution will not occur as a result of the proposed mining operation.

The mining operation represents an untested method of mining of the Sewanee Seam, a deep shaft mine.  Despite the novelty of the mining operation, and the great potential for contamination of ground and surface waters by underground mining in a seam well known to be "leaky" and which is contained in a karst geological structure, no environmental impact study was conducted in writing the permit which would allow mining operation.  Further, the proposed mining activity could interact with natural gas and oil deposits known to be present in the area.  This potential interaction presents significant threats not only to the environment but to the safety of persons within the mining area.  No EIS
has been conducted by TDEC in writing a permit which would allow wastewater to be discharged from the mine into the watershed of a river protected from any potential degradation by federal statute.
Environmental Impact Studies should be conducted before either the mining or the discharge of wastewater are allowed.

Finally, the reliability of Cumberland Coal Company in diligently managing its mining operations with respect to minimizing impacts on the environment and on public safety must be questioned.  Local citizens have reported that blasting operations in the course of surface mining by the company at the site in question have damaged property and ruined numerous wells.  Citizens feel very threatened by allegedly unsafe driving habits of truckers during transportation of the coal.  Citizens report having on numerous occasions been "run off" local roads by the coal trucks.  Two coal trucks in the past year have overturned in single vehicle accidents, spilling their loads of coal.  When such grievous negligeance in operations have been alleged, it is not reasonable that TDEC can credit assurances by the company that diligence will be maintained in the treatment and disposal of wastewater from an
additional deep shaft mine.

Thank you for your attention in this manner.

      Respectfully yours,

      John Harwood, Conservation Chair
      Upper Cumberland Group, Sierra Club

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