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The Sierra Club, Appalachian Citizens Law Center and Kentuckians For The Commonwealth, joined by outdoor enthusiasts and paddlers, are challenging a permit submitted by Cambrian Coal Corporation that would allow for a new surface coal mine near Elkhorn Creek in Pike County. Cambrian Coal proposes to discharge mining waste into tributaries of Elkhorn Creek, Marrowbone Creek and Pond Creek, all of which run into Russell Fork, a major destination for many paddlers.
“For the past 7 years, I have participated in the Russell Fork Whitewater Rendezvous,” said Bill Pierskalla, a Sierra Club member and whitewater paddler. “If the proposed mine goes forward, I am concerned that people like myself will stop visiting Elkhorn City and paddling Russell Fork out of concern that the mining has polluted the water beyond safe limits.”
According to the groups, the 791-acre Cambrian Coal surface mine would severely jeopardize creek quality as well as land preservation, making recreational use of the area a less attractive option for tourists.
Aquatic biologist, local resident James Stapleton said, “I grew up along Elkhorn Creek, I’ve hiked and fished in that area for years. As a child I used to swim in the creek, but now I am concerned that surface mining in this area has started to degrade the water to an unsafe level.”
Recently the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released new water conductivity standards in order to protect water and the health of surrounding communities. Water testing downstream of Cambrian’s existing mines in the area has found the water to be far above EPA’s conductivity standards.
“I see no way this proposed mining operation could meet the requirements of the recent EPA guidance concerning conductivity. Already the area is above the recommended federal clean water standards,” said Rick Clewett of the Cumberland Sierra Club. “We should not be adding pollution to the area but cleaning it up. Additional mining could potentially eliminate the prospects for that community being able to succeed in their current efforts to develop and expand an economy based on water recreation and fishing.”
“Water is the back bone of our economy here in Elkhorn City. And at the end of the day, we need people to keep visiting our area to recreate and support our local businesses,” said Stapleton.
The Sierra Club is now taking legal action against Cambrian Coal to ensure that the affected waterways and community are protected from mine pollution. Attorney Mary Cromer with Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center is representing the Sierra Club.
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