It’s About the Water: As TDEC considers permit renewal for Turner mine, SOCM members seek assurance that water quality will be protected

SOCM members Franz Raetzer and Landon Medley were among those who testified at the Turner Mine/Smith Mountain hearing in Crossville in 2009.

By Cathie Bird

When SOCM members gather next week for a public hearing on renewal of the SMCRA permit for the Turner surface mine, it may seem like déjà vu. For the third time in six years, the Cumberland County Chapter, supported by SOCM’s E3 Committee, will organize to make sure that citizens’ concerns about water discharge from this mine are heard.

In 2009, it was about a questionable plan to bury coal ash at the mine. In 2013, it was Crossville Coal’s plans for exploratory drilling under the adjacent Catoosa Wildlife Management Area. SOCM members and allies organized to present concerns at an informal conference with the federal Office of Surface Mining (OSM) to discuss potential mining at Catoosa and renewal of the Turner permit. In 2014, water sample data and Crossville Coal Company’s plan for a new sediment pond to treat acidic water from the mine kept members and allies wondering about how effectively the mine’s toxic runoff is being managed.

The element that connects these concerns is water!

Since the 1970’s, SOCM members have talked about threats to water from mining in the Sewanee coal seam. To get to Sewanee coal, miners must go through Whitwell shale, a layer of rock that has proven time and again to cause an outflow of acidic water — acid mine drainage (AMD) — when disturbed.

Section of the map submitted with the application for renewal of the Turner mine (TDEC Permit #0071633, SMCRA Permit 3189) showing some of the water treatment structures, including a proposed basin and Anoxic Limestone Drain to treat acidic water flowing from the disturbed surface areas of the mine. This mine borders the Catoosa Wildlife Management Area in Cumberland County, Tennessee.

 

These rock and mineral layers are present and problematic at the Turner mine!

Once AMD forms, it requires treatment “in perpetuity”. Treatment is costly: systems must be engineered properly and monitored carefully. If left untreated, AMD harms fish and wildlife downstream and leaves water unusable for drinking and recreation.

In the case of the Turner mine, any failure of reclamation at this mine – including treatment of AMD — would compromise the health of water and wildlife at the adjacentCatoosa Wildlife Management Area and the Obed Wild & Scenic River.

We want as many people as possible to come out next Tuesday in support of clean water for Tennessee’s people and wildlife!

If You Plan to Attend or Submit Comments:

Date: Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

Public Hearing: 5:00 p.m. Central / Technical Q&A Session for the Public: 2-4 p.m. Central

Location: Cumberland Mountain State Park, Room A, 24 Office Drive (Hwy 127S), Crossville, 38555

The public comment period ends March 6. Send comments to Gary Mullins (TDEC)Gary.Mullins@tn.gov. Include these reference numbers in your comments: TDEC Permit # 0071633, Turner Surface Mine; and the Office of Surface Mining (OSM) Permit 3189, Crossville Coal, Inc

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