UAB Public Health opposes coal mine

By on February 21, 2013
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UAB is in opposition to the coal-mining project proposed by the Drummond Coal Group.

BWWB Intake on the Mulberry Fork just 800 feet across the river from a tributary that will discharge pollutants from Shepherd Bend Mine.  Photo by Nelson Brooke/ www.blackwarriorriver.org

BWWB Intake on the Mulberry Fork just 800 feet across the river from a tributary that will discharge pollutants from Shepherd Bend Mine. Photo by Nelson Brooke/ www.blackwarriorriver.org

On February 13, UAB’s Public Health Students Association voted unanimously on the resolution that would oppose the use of the coal mine near the Black Warrior River’s. If the coal mine was used, local water sources could be contaminated.

The bill was proposed to the University of Alabama System of Trustees, because the use of the land would be crucial to protecting the vast environmental and anthropological consequences as the proposed mining project.

The coal-mining project is expected to have extensive impacts on the environment as well as the health and pocket books of Birmingham residents.

Although the proposed mine would be able to extract valuable minerals, the costs of the proposed methods of extraction are very expensive. Black Warrior River Keeper, an organization devoted to the environmental health of the river criticizes the mining permit for the lack of protection for the environment.

The permit allows the mining company owned by the Drummond family to expel pollutants in the water at levels much higher than deemed safe.

Aerial photo of Shepherd Bend on the Mulberry Fork, showing proximity of Birmingham Water Works Board's Mulberry Intake to the proposed mine site.  Photo by Nelson /www.blackwarriorriver.org

Aerial photo of Shepherd Bend on the Mulberry Fork, showing proximity of Birmingham Water Works Board’s Mulberry Intake to the proposed mine site. Photo by Nelson /www.blackwarriorriver.org

According to Gil Rogers, an attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, “There are a lot of pollutants in this coal that are not covered by this permit.”

UAB Public Health Student Association announced, “The ADEM permit would allow Shepherd Bend to discharge wastewater with 10 times the level of iron and 40 times the level of manganese recommended by the Safe Drinking Water Act.”

These high levels of heavy metals will impact the local environment leading to destruction of precious flora and fauna.

In addition to polluting the river, the proposed mine will be located a water purification facility that supplies drinking water for over 200,000 residents in and around Birmingham. One proposed waste disposal site would be as little as 800 feet from a water purification facility.

Despite the best efforts to filter these contaminants, water quality for the area will suffer while the additional costs of cleaning the water to an acceptable level may be passed on to area residents.

By analyzing the consequences of the Black Warrior mine, UAB Public Health concluded that such an initiative would be detrimental to the ecosystem and overall health of individuals who depend on that river for clean water.

Majaliwa Mzombwe
Science Editor
scienceguy@insideuab.com

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