CORDOVA, Ala. (WIAT) – There’s a new development in the battle over strip mining near a source of drinking water in Walker County. You will get a chance to have a say, in a public hearing set for July.
The Birmingham Water Works Board fought permits for two mines in the area already.
Shepherd Bend and Reed Minerals No. 5 aren’t the first mines on the Mulberry Fork, but if the Alabama Surface Mining Commission declares these lands unsuitable for mining they could be the last.
The Black Warrior Riverkeeper organization filed a petition to do just that.
“We are not trying to stop mining. We are trying to limit mining when it occurs next to our source drinking water,” said Eva Dillard, Black Warrior Riverkeeper.
Opponents fear mining related pollution like heavy metal contamination could increase the cost of filtration and lower the quality of water.
One of their big concerns has to do with rainy days. Because surface mines use trap ponds to try to allow sediment in runoff to settle to the bottom, when they’re overwhelmed by a lot of rain some of that wastewater may wind up in nearby waterways. In this case that waterway would be the Mulberry Fork of the Black Warrior River. That’s where the Birmingham Water Works Board has an intake that reportedly serves roughly 200,000 people.
Supporters of mining in the area have said that industry will provide much needed jobs and in at least one case- revenue for the City of Cordova.
The trade-off to residents could mean long term repercussions on the land and the river they love.
“When it’s barren, there’s no trees on it. It takes forever to recover, but the runoff- even after they reclaim it you still have runoff from all the rock and all that that’s been brought to the surface,” said Gary Hosmer, Cordova resident. “I’m hoping for the best.”
“It’s going to affect so many people,” said Hosmer. “But myself personally, I don’t want to see the river destroyed. And that’s what I see happening.”
The ASMC has set the public hearing for Tuesday July 9, 2013 from 1:00 p.m.-3:30 p.m. at the Community Health System Building in Jasper (204 19th St E, Jasper, AL 35501).
Eva Dillard says the Black Warrior Riverkeeper organization has written a letter to the Alabama Surface Mining Commission requesting a different time or another meeting that evening so that people who work during the day will be able to attend.
“Scheduling the hearing in the middle of the day when many if not most of the affected stakeholders are going to be at work is going to greatly limit public participation and comment. That’s a real shame when the issue is one of such public importance like the preservation and protection of safe and affordable drinking water for the community,” said Dillard.
Alabama Surface Mining Commission Director Randall Johnson was unavailable for an on-camera interview, but over the phone he told us that he had no comment on the timing of the hearing. He did say that no matter when the hearing was scheduled some people would be upset.