FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 10, 2008
Contacts: Oliver Bernstein, Sierra Club, 512-477-2152
Ann League, Save Our Cumberland Mountains, 865-617-2451
Axel C. Ringe, Tennessee Clean Water Network, 865-397-1840
Water Pollution Concerns Lead to Challenge of Zeb Mountain Mine
Tests Show National Coal Corporation’s Tennessee Mine Emit’s Toxic Selenium
Knoxville, TN: The Sierra Club, Save Our Cumberland Mountains and the Tennessee Clean Water Network have put the National Coal Corporation on notice for dumping harmful amounts of toxic selenium pollution into Tennessee waterways from its Zeb Mountain coal mine. Data show that the huge mountaintop removal coal mine, located in Campbell and Scott Counties, Tennessee, has been discharging unlawfully high levels of selenium into nearby bodies of water. Indeed, National's own most recent samples show that they are discharging selenium from 12 sediment basins in the permit area.
“Anyone who eats fish caught near this area risks exposure to toxic levels of selenium,” said Ann League of Save Our Cumberland Mountains. “The Zeb Mountain mine’s toxic dumping threatens our health and well-being; they need to be held accountable.”
Selenium can be extremely toxic to people, causing hair and fingernail loss, kidney and liver damage, and damage to the nervous and circulatory systems. It also bioaccumulates in fish, causing severe impacts including reproductive failure, birth defects and damage to gills and internal organs.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) currently sets the standard for selenium at 5 micrograms per liter, although many experts recommend that the standard be set even lower. Studies have shown that concentrations of 10 micrograms per liter can cause complete reproductive failure in reservoirs and a 40% reduction in streams.
On April 29, 2008, Sierra Club and Save Our Cumberland Mountains obtained a water sample showing that one of the sediment basins on Zeb Mountain was discharging 47 micrograms per liter of selenium. National's own sample taken on June 12, 2008 shows a concentration of 100 micrograms per liter at the same basin.
The Sierra Club, Save Our Cumberland Mountains and the Tennessee Clean Water Network sent National Coal Corporation and National Coal Corp. a formal notice of intent to sue on July 9, 2008. The organizations are represented by Gena Lewis and Joe Lovett with the Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment, Jim Hecker with Public Justice and attorney Mary Mastin.