Orange Water, Green Jobs: Turning Acidic Streams into Economic Assets
The dark side of Pennsylvania’s coal mining legacy is well known, if little publicized: “acid mine drainage” is the largest polluter of the Commonwealth’s rivers and streams — particularly the Chesapeake Bay. People have been working on the AMD problem for years and progress is slowly being made. As evidenced by the following video segment (derived from our GreenWorks show From Bay to PA), anyone can take on a big issue and achieve success if they’re willing to take that first step…
An interesting article in the recent issue of Solutions Journal looks at successful reclamation efforts in Appalachia — and argues that unless changes are made to some of the enabling laws before they expire, the job of cleaning up the waterways affected by abandoned coal mines will never get done.
Making targeted but important changes to the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund would ensure that current coal mines continue to be taxed until reclamation of abandoned coal mines is complete, thereby generating thousands of green jobs and turning polluted streams into economic assets.
Orange Water, Green Jobs. Solutions. Vol 1, No. 4. 2010. by Hansen, E. Hereford, A. McIlmoil, R.
Like many waterways in the U.S. region of central Appalachia, the Cheat River once ran acidic—a legacy of drainage from the watershed’s countless abandoned coal mines and refuse piles. Just a couple of decades ago, the noxious waters stressed fish populations and polluted potable water supplies, and the unreclaimed mines posed health and safety threats. It was not uncommon for streams to glow bright orange or turn a turbid, milky gray as the metals in the polluted mine drainage mixed with the stream water. Stained orange rocks coated with “yellow boy” were a sure sign that the water, even if clear, carried acid mine drainage from abandoned mines toward Cheat Lake downstream.
Today, it is a different story. Cheat River and Cheat Lake host thriving fish stocks and have become meccas for anglers and boaters. The lake is the site of a popular bass-fishing tournament, and homes in the area house residents of the greater Morgantown, West Virginia, region as well as vacationers. Upstream, Cheat Canyon is renowned for white-water rafting and kayaking.