Friday, March15
7:30 PM


DIRECTIONS: If on I-40 take exit 322 (Tenn 101, Peavine Road) If coming from the East turn right. If coming from the West turn left. Proceed through Fairfield Glade (6miles from I-40) then for an additional plus or minus 6 miles bearing left on the paved road. At a fork in the road there is a large stone house (formerly a local school built in the 30's by the WPA) .Bearing to the left the Community Center is about 600 feet farther down on the left.    A blue metal building.

The mine would be below groundwater and artesian well water sources. Blasting likely to cause damage in large area surrounding the mine.

Meeting called by community leaders. U.S. Representative, County Executive & State & County Representatives invited .  Jane Johnson will moderate & Don Clark will speak among others..
This piece was recently printed in OLD HICKORY (this version is only slightly strengthened)  Another version will appear in Lion & the Lamb next week.  DBC

By Don Clark


      The CUMBERLAND COAL COMPANY LLC  has not decided to quit its desecration but has applied for permits to go underground for coal in the notorious Sewanee seam on Smith mountain.

  Four County residents representing four stakeholder groups visited
the site for underground mining on December 19th with Office of Surface Mining (OSM) staff.

  We learned that the basins now employed for surface mining runoff treatment that were troublesome would also be employed for the underground mining operation.  These were the  basins that were the subject of the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation (TDEC) Director's Order  which assessed a Civil Penalty of $5,250 for violating the conditions of their permit   The Cumberland Coal Company was to develop a detailed plan for complying with the permit by last June, implement batch treatment by August and by January 1, ,2002 comply with all terms and conditions of the Permit. The exceedances (vioilations)  started in 1999 and by January 2001 were continuing despite the implementation of temporary measures to control seep sources from the basins and effectively treat the effluent discharged. from the basins.

The Compliance Management Plan submitted in April 2001 was apparently not complied with and the  measures taken violated the Clean Water Act.  We contend that the Company deserved to be fined $10,000 a day for several months and to face criminal charges as well.

   We had requested permission to visit the site of the proposed underground mine and been denied because the owner refused access (Oct.3). We appealed stating that we understood the law differently (Oct.17).. The lawyers answered our appeal on Jan.22 which was after the visit and Informal conference.  OSM apparently got wind of the forthcoming opinion.  The legal opinion declared that the owner had no right to deny our visit and the OSM needed to allow us access before the informal conference that we requested.
  The site visit was limited to four stakeholders with no press or other government agencies permitted to accompany us. We were not permitted to see the steps taken by the company to meet past deadlines and view the progress made toward meeting the 1/1/2002 and 1/30/2002 deadlines of TDEC on  permit violations on the same Basins to be employed in the underground mining operation. We noted that mining operations had been completed for the day when we visited and we contend that a visit to see what actions are to take place at all the basins (all of which are seeping) would have been appropriate. The "to be permitted area" includes the present facilities.

  We requested a site visit with TDEC staff of all the basins and as of 3/6/02 the TDEC legal beagles are still figuring out how that can be accomplished . Our request for a hearing on the TDEC water pollution permit. has been granted  It will take place on Tuesday, March 26th at 7:00 PM in the Cumberland County Courthouse

The TDEC water permit is a necessary part of the  Application for Underground Mining that The U.S. Office of Surface Mining manages and is satisfied with.. Only TDEC can have the Application modified, additional measures taken, etc.   All of the requests cited below  apparently did not precipitate any action (or even the promised response) by the OSM.

 We learned on the visit that top of the bell shaped uprising which is presently being strip mined drops off rather steeply meaning that the underground mine might be 600 feet deep or more by the time it reaches the Catoosa property line. The seam might be over 30 feet thick  (very unusual) but would probably vary considerably. The owner expects to mine between 2 and 3 million tons of coal for TVA.    The groundwater is on top of the coal.   They do not expect natural gas to be a problem and apparently expect to employ only blasting. Underground  mining requires lots of water and lots of water gets pumped to the surface. We note in the Application that 6,900,600 cubic feet/year of discharge from underground workings might be expected. The Preparation Plant water usage would be 806 cubic feet/week but 80% of this would be recycled.    Understandably we have questions about the use of the present basins considering the new loadings. While using present facilities that have been found without OSM violations is reassuring to OSM, it is not reassuring to us. It is frightening to find that basins with seepage problems and  violations  are not being replaced with better designed basins.  If seeping basins are meeting OSM standards, we need to see how they interpret the laws.   Hopefully TDEC will not tolerate seeping basins.

The seepage from all the basins must be pumped from catchment facilities and all of the water leaving the site must be treated. Lime trucks entering the site sometimes outnumber the coal trucks leaving but we could not find where records would be required. .  We found the treatment plans in the application for underground mining to be vague and devoid of specifics.

We believe that the present mine will need perpetual treatment of acid mine drainage. This contention must be proven wrong before OSM has the ability to issue another  permit on the site, under the law (Section 510 b (2)).  We are advised by those experienced in dealing with the OSM to expect lots of slippage.   We have received no proof that our contention is wrong.   It seems not to matter to OSM. Maybe it will to TDEC.

  After reading the Application and all the reassuring views, and plans, and knowing the surface mine history, we are very concerned about the will and ability of the company to fulfill the commitments in the Application and the several regulators to adequately monitor and require timely remedy of violations.  This is a mine in the Sewanee Seam that demands close scrutiny with a sound enforcement rationale. which we could not find.  On the map  provided us there was only one groundwater well in the mining area which is almost certainly inadequate.

  .Mining under the Newton Sandstone (which constitutes the area aquifer) is apparently to be monitored with three groundwater wells:  We are not sure what OSM will be looking for and what can be done or will be done to remediate adverse findings.

   The source of all the water to be used remains a concern that we did not see adequately addressed. We note that domestic groundwater use in the Rogers community and Millstone Creeks area are from wells in the Rockcastle and Vandever formations which are stratigraphically higher than the Newton Sandstone. OSM was not so sure that the wells would not be effected by having a pledge built into the permit for the restoration or replacement of water resources of equivalent quality and quantity by the applicant. We feel it is imperative that a baseline be established in all the artesian wells in the area and Rogers community before mining begins. Results should be filed with OSM and shared with property owners. We would like assurance that all wells that might be effected are included.   Somehow we doubt that this will happen without public concern and  pressure.

A Pre-blast Notice is to be sent to residences in a 1/2-mile radius, which we contend, may not be adequate. We would like to know how many are to receive the notification and when. We may publicize that residents should request a pre-blast survey of the condition of their dwellings or structures long before the required 30 days before blasting begins. While blast monitoring equipment is to be used and records kept of each blast, we would like to see the results recorded with blast size noted and the resultant record from strategically placed, bolted down seismographs.

  We have questioned the adequacy of all permits in protecting the biological life of the affected streams, contending that meeting OSM and NPDES limits can result in streams that are non-supportive by EPA/TVA/TDEC standards. We are aware of the 2/2001 Biological Evaluation of the Millstone Branch and Meadow Branch Watersheds
contending that regular studies are needed and that redundancies may not be adequate.  It only takes one mishap to kill the streams.

  Mining and re-mining in the Sewanee seam seems to us to be inconsistent with the TN Anti-degradation policy and requirements for protection of a Tier 3 river.

Mining in the Sewanee seam has been a problem most everywhere, and certainly is at this surface mine.

   We asked that the Application for Underground Mining be denied and mining cease at the Cumberland Coal Company.LLC on the north side of Smith Mountain when the present permit expires in a couple months.  We
contend that the problems have not been adequately addressed and may never be. In all probability new ones cannot be prevented or addressed without compromising area streams that have been afforded the highest of protection. The watersheds involved are some of the most biologically diverse in the world and deserve better.

On the visitation were Walter Stark of Cumberland County Chapter of SOCM
Jean Clark of Obed Watershed Association
Bill Naumann of Cumberland Countians for Peace & Justice
and Don Clark of the United Church of Christ
Network for Environmental & Economic Responsibility

Donald B. Clark
P.O.Box 220
Pleasant Hill, TN 38578
(931) 277-5467 fax: 277-5593
[email protected]

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