Appalachia’s people and ecosystems rely on the availability of clean water, but the entire lifecycle of coal — mining, processing, burning and waste disposal — seriously threatens this natural resource. Through the Appalachian Water Watch program, we work to address water quality issues in coal-impacted communities around Central Appalachia by promoting and ensuring compliance with laws that protect clean water.
State regulatory agencies in Central Appalachia have failed to hold the coal industry accountable for inaccurate and sometimes unlawful record keeping of surface water impacts. This lack of enforcement highlights the need for independent monitoring in water testing and reviewing existing records. The Appalachian Water Watch Alerts site allows local people to alert their community, as well as state and federal agencies, to water pollution events.
Appalachian Water Watch Alerts Site
This site was created to help people in Central Appalachia report and track incidents of water pollution. Emergency spills, such as coal mine sediment and slurry pond spills, tanker truck spills and natural gas well blowouts, are often only reported to a subset of the community, or only to state agencies. It can be difficult to obtain notification of spills in one’s community, or to gain information about how a spill is being dealt with by responsible companies and agencies. Through this site, we aim to address these issues by providing a means for local people to report spill events they witness.
ACE Project: Community-Based Water Testing
The Appalachian Water Watch citizen monitoring program is designed to fill the vacuum left by the lack of state enforcement through empowering communities to monitor their own water, creating a broad perspective into the extent of coal-related contamination across the entire region. Many organizations and individuals throughout Central Appalachia work together to collect local water quality data that is made public and can be used to advocate for the enforcement of existing laws and increased protection for clean water and healthy communities.
Accountability through the Courts
Federal law, including the Clean Water Act and the Surface Mine Control and Reclamation Act, are in place to protect public water and other valuable natural resources, and to protect local communities from harm caused by the coal industry. When these laws are broken, or not adequately enforced by state agencies, legal recourse by citizen groups may be necessary. The information collected through our citizen monitors and the review of state and industry data enables us to assist local residents in legal action against offending companies and agencies. This information can also be used to enact local, state and national policies to better and more permanently protect our waterways.