Governor Bob McDonnell today announced the state intends to award $340,000 to fund projects that reduce nonpoint source pollution from acid mine drainage from pre- Surface Mine Control and Reclamation Act (1977) coal mining in the Powell River watershed of southwestern Virginia. The Virginia Water Quality Improvement Act funds will be awarded upon completion of a 30-day public comment period to end May 22. The grant is in addition to the $1.69 million award in acid mine drainage remediation funds McDonnell announced in May 2012.
Speaking about the announcement, Governor McDonnell said, "This grant shows Virginia's continued commitment to reducing the leading source of water quality problems - nonpoint source or runoff pollution - including from historic coal mining activities."
"The Wagonertown 2 and Penhook projects continue DMME's successful partnership with local, state and federal agencies to address acid mine drainage problems in the Clinch and Powell River watersheds," said Conrad T. Spangler, III, Director of the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy. "The remediation of AMD in these streams helps ensure the protection of endangered mussels and fish species and provides clean water to the citizens of Southwest Virginia." DMME oversees coal, non-fuel mineral mining and natural gas and oil well operations in Virginia and will provide technical oversight on the funded projects.
"While acid mine drainage is a predominantly Southwest Virginia problem, nonpoint source, or runoff pollution, is a problem statewide," said DCR Director David Johnson. "These funds targeted to specific mining runoff projects are another tool we use to help improve all of Virginia's waters." DCR is the state's lead agency in reducing stormwater and runoff pollution.
The projects are part of an ongoing effort to remediate damage from acid mine drainage (AMD) from abandoned coal mining and state and federal funds administered through the Virginia Department of Mines Minerals and Energy are being used to match state WQIA and federal Clean Water Act funds administered by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. The proposed projects will help remedy AMD seeps along Straight Creek, part of the Powell River, home to many endangered or threatened aquatic species.
Specific sites to be addressed with these funds are Wagonertown 2 south of the town of St. Charles and the Penhook site draining to an unnamed tributary of Straight Creek. With matching funds, the cost of these projects is more than $730,000. Virginia receives funding to reclaim abandoned mine lands through a federal reclamation fee on tonnage mined, which is administered in Virginia by the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy. However funding for AMD from historic mine sites is limited by a Congressional mandate to expend the reclamation funds on abandoned mine lands features that impact human health and safety; making the nonpoint sources funds critical to this project.