"The number of vacancies continued to increase primarily due to retirements," the OSM said. "Most of the vacancies are in permitting and inspection and enforcement.
"Given the continued decline in total WVDEP regulatory staffing and the number of vacancies, [the] OSM continues to make staffing a priority issue with the state," mining agency said. "State officials acknowledge that they have made some progress in filling vacancies and they hope to fill 9 positions in the near future. In the past, state officials have admitted that they have had difficulty hiring and retaining technical staff."
The report indicates that the DEP and OSM continue to put together a new inventory of bonded permit sites with significant acid mine-drainage pollution that require treatment.
"The remaining tasks relate to approximately 190 permits that require additional investigation to more accurately characterize water treatment costs and flow and water quality data for approximately 15 [percent] to 20 percent of the sites," the OSM report said. "Furthermore, additional information is needed regarding pumped discharge rates at underground mines; flow and chemistry data to estimate water treatment costs; and to complete a comprehensive reporting system."
The report also found that the DEP has not yet updated a guidance document to better advise its staff on predicting when new underground mine permits might create acid mine drainage, and that the OSM remains concerned about the pending insolvency of the state fund that cleans up mine sites abandoned after the federal strip-mining law was passed in 1977.
The OSM said the program "will remain solvent until around 2038, but then it will go into the red largely because of water treatment."
Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.