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U.S. cracks down on coal mining pollution.

The United States has issued new water pollution rules for mountaintop-removal coal mining. In April, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) warned that operations that substantially increase the electrical conductivity of nearby streams--a salt-content measurement that indicates the amount of dissolved toxic solids floating downstream--would not receive permits. "We expect these guidances to change behavior ..., because if we continue to do what we have been doing we will continue to see increasing degradation of water quality," said EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.

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During mountaintop removal, miners blast ridges to access underground coal seams and then push the rubble into adjacent depressions, often filling valley streams with soil contaminants. According to the EPA, such "Valley fills" have affected nearly 3,220 kilometers of Appalachian streams since 1992. Valley fills can pollute drinking water, accelerate storm runoff, and overrun toxic holding ponds, flooding downstream communities.

Between 2000 and 2008, the EPA approved permits for 511 valley fills. The new rules would likely reduce this number by limiting streamwater conductivity to 500 microSiemens per centimeter, roughly five times above natural levels. While the measure may spell the end for destructive mountaintop removal practices, coal mining lives on. "This is not about ending coal mining," Jackson told reporters. "This is about ending coal mining pollution."

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Publication:World Watch
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2010
Words:211
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