During a four-day conference in Charleston, researchers presented about 70 new studies. ARIES developed its own voluntary peer-review process, but many of the study authors declined to take part.
The symposium, held at the Charleston Marriott, featured a long list of papers that tried to dissect and criticize new federal water quality guidance that mining operators have successfully challenged in court. An entire session consisted of six papers that tried to pick apart a series of WVU studies that said coalfield residents living near mountaintop removal face increased risks of serious illnesses and premature death.
But a variety of other studies released this week affirmed that mountaintop removal is damaging the environment, and some looked into new and possibly safer ways to handle coal slurry disposal, more efficiently avoid toxic selenium pollution and improve stability of valley fills and mining impoundments.
On Wednesday, three new papers were presented that examined dust emissions from surface mines and tried to come up with better models for predicting and minimizing such emissions.
Catherine Johnson of the University of Kentucky said that blasting modeling used by industry and regulators typically focuses on reducing vibrations and noise and keeping rocks from flying off mine sites. Less has been done, Johnson said, about other blasting-related issues, such as lessening dust or ensuring rocks are the right type and size to minimize pollution runoff when used in reclamation.
"Clearly, a balance between operational cost and mitigation of environmental effects must be found," Johnson said.
Kecojevic agreed, saying, "In the past, we've focused on having the most productive and having the lowest cost, but for some reason, the environmental impacts didn't come to the forefront."
"We can't run away from it," he said. "We have to deal with it. At the end of the day, every dollar you spend on reducing effects on environment and public health is worth it."Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kw...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.