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Illustration by Jack Rooney

Most people have probably never heard of selenium, but for coal operators and fish it’s a big deal. Appalachian Voices’ water quality expert takes a moment to explain the issues surrounding this mineral — necessary in small amounts but toxic to aquatic life even at very low levels — and the EPA’s controversial attempts to regulate it.


Study Shows Steep Decline in Fish Populations Near Mountaintop Removal

Selenium has caused grotesque deformities from s-curved spines and double-headed larvae to fish with both eyes on the same side of their heads. These fish (above) were caught at Belews Lake, N.C., which is adjacent to a Duke Energy coal-fired power plant. Photo by Dr. Dennis Lemly

A study from researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey published in July provides strong new evidence that mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia is devastating downstream fish populations.


Science vs. Mining

Over 2,000 miles of streams have been buried by Mountain Top Removal mining, and many more have been degraded. This seems like it should be illegal, but the destructive practice continues. That’s why Appalachian Voices has been working to keep the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and industry from opening up new loopholes in our environmental laws that would make it easier to poison streams.


Take Action: Protect Appalachian Streams from Toxic Selenium

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is poised to loosen national recommended water quality standards for selenium, a toxic pollutant commonly released from mountaintop removal coal mines. You can stand up for streams in Appalachia by submitting comments urging the EPA to protect aquatic life and strengthen selenium standards.


EPA Proposal for Toxic Coal Pollutant Won’t Protect Clean Water

Resources EPA Draft Selenium Standards Selenium in Kentucky Fact Sheet Read more about selenium on our blog Contact: Eric Chance, Water Quality Specialist, 828-262-1500, Erin Savage, Water Quality Specialist, 828-262-1500, Cat McCue, Communications Director, 434-293-6373, Washington, D.C.


Patriot Coal CEO: Ending Mountaintop Removal Mining a “Win-Win”

After emerging from bankruptcy, Patriot Coal CEO Bennett Hatfield said in an interview with SNL Energy that the 2012 settlement over selenium pollution that forced the company to begin phasing out mountaintop removal proved to be a “win-win.” Even before


Fighting for Clean Water in Virginia: Standing up to Coal Industry Bullies

Today, Appalachian Voices along with our allies in Virginia filed a lawsuit against Penn Virginia, for water polluted by selenium coming from abandoned mines on their land. This lawsuit is one in a series of suits aimed at cleaning up selenium pollution in Callahan Creek.


Penn Virginia Faces Legal Challenge for Toxic Water Pollution

Resources View the Complaint Here Complaint’s Exhibit A Complaint’s Exhibit B Community Groups Protest Coal Mining Pollution and “Bully Tactics” Contacts: Eric Chance, Appalachian Voices,, 828-262-1500 Oliver Bernstein, Sierra Club,, 512-289-8618 Glen Besa, Virginia Sierra Club,, 804


Appalachian Voices and Partners Challenge Kentucky’s Weakening of Water Pollution Standards for Selenium

Earlier today Appalachian Voices and a number of partner organizations sued the EPA over their approval of Kentucky’s new, weaker standard for selenium pollution. Selenium is extremely toxic to fish, and causes deformities and reproductive failure at extremely low levels.


Groups Challenge EPA Decision to Gut Clean Water Protections in Kentucky

Resources View the Complaint Here EPA Approval Letter Selenium Fact Sheet New Guidelines for Coal Mining Pollutant Fail to Protect Waterways and Wildlife Contacts: Eric Chance, Appalachian Voices 828-262-1500 Sean Sarah, Sierra Club 330 338-3740 Doug Doerrfeld, Kentuckians


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