Front Porch Blog

The Appalachian Citizens Enforcement Project

Visit www.ace-project.org to learn more about the Appalachian Citizens Enforcement Project and how you can help protect clean water rights.

The Appalachian Citizens Enforcement Project (ACE Project) is a new citizen water monitoring program being launched by The Alliance for Appalachia this summer. Appalachian Voices’ own Appalachian Water Watch team has been working with several Alliance partner organizations over the last two years to recruit and train volunteers to monitor and report water quality data in their area. Now our program is joining this greater water monitoring effort through partnerships in the ACE Project.

In 2011, Appalachian Water Watch launched community-based water testing in eastern Kentucky and southwestern Virginia. Through partnerships with Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards and Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, we recruited over 50 water monitoring volunteers. Now, the ACE Project will expand water monitoring even farther, into Tennessee and West Virginia. Coal River Mountain Watch and United Mountain Defense have already submitted additional data from West Virginia and Tennessee, more than doubling the amount of data collected.

From the beginning, Appalachian Water Watch made data publicly available through an online map-based system. Making data publicly available allows interested citizens, organizations and agencies to easily review and analyze the data. Through this program, data is actually used to advocate for the enforcement of existing laws, and to enact local, state, and national policies to better protect our waterways. Just last week, local residents were able to take findings from citizen water monitors to their representatives in Washington, D.C., during the annual Week in Washington. The online reporting system developed through Appalachian Water Watch will now be used by all partners on the ACE Project site.

Photo of orange iron discharge

Iron discharge from a coal loading facility.

Citizen water monitoring augments government enforcement of clean water laws by developing a broad view of water contamination across the entire Central Appalachian region. Often, coal companies are the only entities responsible for monitoring pollution discharge below mining sites. By providing additional monitoring downstream of mined areas, local people can help hold companies responsible for any unlawful pollution discharges. Just last summer, a volunteer water monitor outside Whitesburg, Ky., identified an unpermitted discharge of high levels of iron near a coal processing facility. This discharge had gone unnoticed by the state and unreported by the company. Now, the company and the state are working together to identify the source of the iron and treat the discharge appropriately.

The ACE Project gives local people a chance to explore water quality issues throughout their region. The program also provides citizens with high-quality monitoring equipment and training in water monitoring. Most importantly, the program connects people with neighbors who share similar concerns about the effects of coal mining on water quality and human health. By fostering a community with shared interests in environmental health, we can better assure that residents’ rights to clean water in Central Appalachia are protected.

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