Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Mining problems harm America from east to west

Giant Morenci open pit mine seen from space, Clifton AZ.

TUCSON -- In the west, EPA announced today a 6.6 million pound increase in toxic pollution in Arizona to 95 million pounds of toxic emissions in 2008. Mining is the biggest source of toxins contaminating Arizona's water and air, including 2.4 million pounds last year from the huge mines near Green Valley.

Also today from PEER on mining problems in the east: One of the worst mining disasters in American history resulted in a paltry $5,500 fine and could recur on hundreds of similarly vulnerable sites across the country. Yet a newly released Labor Department Inspector General report on the nation’s largest coal slurry spill answers few questions while providing backhanded support for a whistleblower’s charges that the Bush administration hamstrung the official investigation and subsequent enforcement, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).

What many have called the biggest environmental catastrophe in the southeastern U.S. took place on October 11, 2000 when a huge coal slurry impoundment atop an underground mine broke through to the shafts below and punched out the side of the mountain. More than 300 million gallons of toxic waste (a release larger than the Exxon Valdez oil spill) poisoned 100 miles of waterways killing all marine life and most of the wildlife in Martin County, Kentucky.

Read the full news release and view documents. Follow RepPatterson on twitter.

- adapted from PEER.