FOR CUMBERLAND COAL COMPANY UNDERGROUND MINE
Tuesday, March 26, 2002 PUBLIC HEARING
The Skyline Coal Company 2001 Acid Mine Drainage Inspection Overview and Data Presentation, that TDEC graciously supplied, points out the similarity of problems in the Sewanee seam and the need for at least a yearly thorough going evaluation. It was somewhat reassuring that the earth does mend itself to some degree and some ground water did improve. The numerous mine seeps (springs) that appeared in the vicinity of Basin 003 with elevated total manganese and the black sludge deposited in the flood plain and upper edge of an existing beaver impoundment adjacent to Big Brush Creek substantiated the need for visits after a mine is closed and reclamation is completed. It supports the contention that reclamation is never quite adequate and the problems are likely perpetual. It supports, as I suspect the yet to be completes studies will also confirm, namely YOU WILL HAVE A VERY DIFFICULT TASK IN SCIENTIFICALLY SUPPORTING A CONTENTION THAT THE STRIP MINE OF THE CUMBERLAND COAL COMPANY WILL NOT NEED PERPETUAL TREATMENT, THAT ITS RECLAMATION PLAN WILL WORK. THIS MEANS TO US THAT ANOTHER PERMIT CANNOT BE ISSUED ON THIS SITE. (Sec.510 B 2) THEREFORE WE CONTEND THAT THIS IS ONE BASIS FOR DECLINING TO ISSUE THE NPDES PERMIT.
The Cumberland Mining Company notices of violation (6) and compliance reviews (2) followed with a Directors Order (and fine) document that it takes years to obtain a questionable compliance with the permit (1999-Feb.2002). We still do not know that the Directors Order has been completely complied with but we do know that extensions have been granted. We do not have the Office of Surface Mining notices of violation but do know that the Application for Underground Mining took about a year to complete to OSM satisfaction. The volume of corrections responding to pages of deficiencies did not inspire confidence in the competence of the applicants. The OSM certainly seems to bend over backward to help mining take place. THE FACT THAT THE SEEPING BASINS ON THE EXISTING SITE HAVE NOT BEEN REPLACED OR ADEQUATELY ADDRESSED, MEAN TO US THAT IT IS TOTALLY INAPPROPRIATE TO ISSUE ANOTHER PERMIT TO THESE APPLICANTS UNTIL THE PRESENT INADEQUACIES ARE COMPLETELY RESOLVED. USING ANY OF THE SEEPING BASINS FOR THE NEW UNDERGROUND MINE IS INAPPROPRIATE, UNSAFE, AND SHOULD BE ILLEGAL IN OUR VIEW. ANOTHER REASON TO DENY THE PERMIT.
It is frankly unbelievable that the Mining Section of TDEC could document NO IMPACTS TO WATERS OF THE STATE, especially in light of the "numerous site visits and several stream surveys" that TDEC thought were needed. We need to know the definition of "NO IMPACT" and the actual count of the "numerous site visits and several stream surveys" and what precipitated those that were not regularly scheduled, if such there be. We believe in unannounced visits that the permittee did not expect. How many were there? WE ASK AGAIN AND DESERVE AN ANSWER BEFORE THE PERMIT IS APPROVED. WE REFER YOU TO THE APRIL 20, 2000 ARTICLE IN THE TENNESSEAN ENTITLED MINERšS EFFORT TO FIX PROBLEM CAUSES ANOTHER. TREATMENT FOR ACID RUNOFF IS KILLING MINNOWS, INSECTS which reports on TDEC studies. WE CONTEND THAT THE "MODERN" TREATMENT EMPLOYED BY SKYLINE AND ON THIS SITE, DOES NOT WORK STANDARDS THAT KILL CRITTERS ARE NOT ADEQUATE NOT WHAT IS NEEDED TO PROTECT THE STREAMS AFFORDED THE HIGHEST OF PROTECTION. RESIDENTS IN THE AREA, THAT KNOW THE STREAMS BEFORE AND AFTER CCC, ATTEST TO SIGNIFICANT DAMAGE.
Frankly, we find the existing laws and regulations totally inadequate to protect the streams and the environment and the public. Waiting for a violation to take place before action can take place is obviously too late. The damage is done and cannot be undone but may be prevented from occurring again, if the permittee decides that it is in his interest to comply. It certainly pays to violate the law in this state. Depending on voluntary reporting of non-compliance with vagueness and subjectiveness on what constitutes a threat to the public, public health and the environment, is scary. Waiting for reports and depending on permittees to make judgements is simply unacceptable. We believe that much of the monitoring in this case needs to be done more frequently. Twice a month is probably too long an interval. Filing of reports of monitoring should be done within minutes via email to a dedicated computer that makes the decision on what is a threat and communicates back what has to be done and by whom. It sounds as if the TDEC operation is using technologies of the 1950šs that are destined to fail the public and protect an undeserving industry from costs and liability.
We stand in the ready to help TDEC get
the legislation and regulations that are necessary to protect the public
and the environment. Give us legislation to champion the public good and
ammunition to expose the industry misinformation and pressures.
With the Spencer situation now going worldwide, it behooves us all to give science a chance, department experts the tools they need and to make TDEC immune from political and industry pressures. The world is now watching or will be shortly.
We have very grave concern about the effects of past explosions in the acquifer that is under another one that provides artesian well water to residents some distance away. What will underground mining operations do to the aquifers already impacted by the past blasting. We know that much of the groundwater eventually surfaces but that the NPDES only deals with surface water from the mine site. Somehow we believe that the result of blasting under the weakest of regulations in existence is a concern of TDEC in that it effects drinking water, etc. By permitting only mine site runoff, what does a homeowner need to do whose well goes dry or gets rusty. What State or EPA law comes into play and what say does TDEC have in the blasting that creates so much havoc? The SMCRA permit gets reworked to offer a modicum of protection without seeming to consider that a permit should not be issued for fear of a takings litigation. We find this unjust. TDEC waits until the SMCRA is complete and then seemingly follows along with the OSM decisions and define that all they need to do is protect the waters of the state from mine site runoff. We have noticed that OSM seems not to know what TDEC is about and blasting regulations are enforced by the Dept. of Commerce & Insurance without so much as a seismograph of their own. Blasting done for the surface mine has caused property damage several miles away and reports of a least 6 wells gone bad miles away indicate that lots of damage has already been done. The SMCRA permit says that properties only 1/2 mile away need to be assessed and we have $45,000 worth of damage to a property just under a mile away. The 1/2-mile is inadequate for property damage and certainly for well testing. You are to protect the interests and viability of people and creation, not limit the liability of CCC and thereby make victims of the whole area.
We contend that TDEC needs monthly or at least quarterly meetings with environmental stakeholders where these kind of issues can be addressed and we can be working together to get environmental laws and regulations that are effective and preventative.
We know that Lou Devillon is suggesting in his testimony that a small "working group" be formed for the CCC mining operation that would meet periodically to discuss outstanding issues. It would consist of community, mining interests and regulators. WE SUPPORT HIS RECOMMENDATION FOR A WORKING GROUP. BUT WE CONTEND THAT THE MINING PERMIT MUST BE DENIED.
The articles, questions and comments previously shared with you by email are to be made a part of the record of this hearing. Those that have been subsequently published, and maybe slightly revised are enclosed in a folder that accompanied this testimony. All of the contents of the folder are intended to be a part of the record.
The Lion & the Lamb op-ed of
March 20 in the Crossville Chronicle asks: WHERE IS ALL THE 6,900,600
cubic feet of water that is being discharged from the mine coming from.
Is it coming out of existing wells? What impact will that pumping have
on artesian wells miles away? Will the basins supply the water? Will it
be treated before being pumped into the mine? What will happen to the
streams when all this water is added? We found no answers. We got
no reply from previous testimony at the INFORMAL CONFERENCE on January
3. The requirement that the CCC will restore or replace water resources
of equivalent quality and quantity for all those using groundwater in
the Rogers community and Millstone Creeks area is fine. The area covered
is very likely inadequate. The residents and we need to know how many
are to be notified and have their wells tested by qualified personnel.
They are understandably very skeptical because there were no notifications
or assessments when the surface mine stated operating. And they wonder
about the bonding.the liability coverage for destroying all the wells
in the territory. OSM did not do its job with the surface mine that has
resulted in many victims in the watershed. TDEC needs to do the job this
time. Give us the answers cited above, and explain them to the residents
of the area. It will be a hard sell.
FRANKLY, WE DO NOT BELIEVE THAT THE REGULATORS
HAVE THE LAWS TO DO THE JOB THAT IS NEEDED IN THE BOILERPLATE STUFF THAT
APPEARS IN THE PERMITS. YET YOU DO HAVE THE RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT
THE WATERS OF THE STATE. DOING THAT REQUIRES YOU TO DENY THIS PERMIT.
Kindly refer to my email of March 18,2002
in which I bring up the road situation, water sprayed on the road that smells
like rotten eggs or something similar, gas under the mine and whole area,
etc. WE WOULD APPRECIATE ANSWERS TO THESE CONCERNS. HEARINGS THAT RESULT
IN NO RESPONSES OR GIVE AND TAKE WITH THE REGULATORS ARE NOT SATISFACTORY.