Recent published scientific information reveals that mountaintop mining and valley-fill operations in Southern Appalachia may be linked to degraded water quality and adverse impacts on in-stream biota. Discharges from surface coal mining operations are regulated under the Clean Water Act (CWA). CWA Section 402 provides authority to regulate discharges of pollutants to streams from valley-fills and associated operations. CWA Section 404 provides authority to regulate construction of the vally-fill itself to the extent rock and dirt are placed in waters of the United States, including streams and wetlands.
EPA's Region 3 Office has requested EPA's Office of Research and Development (ORD) prepare a scientific assessment of the ecological impacts related to mountaintop mining and valley-fill operations. The scope of the draft assessment includes: loss of headwater streams, downstream water quality and subsequent effects on in-stream biota, and cumulative ecological impacts. In addition, the draft assessment will evaluate restoration and recovery methods used by mining companies to address these ecological impacts associated with mountaintop mining and valley-fill operations.
ORD requested the SAB review and provide advice on the scientific adequacy, suitability, and appropriateness of the draft assessment.