Is proposed Tucker plant a health hazard?
I am responding to the editorial in The Inter Mountain regarding the proposed Big Run hydroelectric plant in Tucker County. The following comments represent my personal thoughts and not those of any other person or group.
Construction of the proposed hydroelectric project would require the creation of a 1,200-acre upper reservoir. This upper reservoir would contain approximately 36 billion gallons of water that would set directly on top of old abandoned coal mine tunnels as well as land that has previously been strip mined.
Maps currently indicate that the upper reservoir would set on approximately half of the mined land. This would undoubtedly unleash an irreversible Pandora’s box by disturbing acid mine waste from both the old deep mines and the strip-mined area. The weight of billions of gallons of water on top of the deep mines could cause the tunnels to collapse. Once the acid mine waste in the subject area is released it would negatively impact Tub Run, the North Fork, Slip Hill Mill Run, Finley Run and Big Run, which would eventually enter the Blackwater and Cheat Rivers, thus killing these rivers and streams with acid mine waste. Additionally, as the upper reservoir is saturated with acid mine waste, the water in the lower reservoir would become polluted as the water from the upper reservoir is released into the lower reservoir, thus killing an entire watershed. It is a losing situation.
Besides killing streams and rivers with acid mine waste, the hydro electric project would destroy much of Tub Run and Mill Run. Mill Run is a Tier 3 stream. “Tier 3 is the classification for waters designated as an outstanding national resource. Sediment transfer, temperature variability, species richness, and overall habitat functionality are some of the effects dams have on river systems.” Once the surrounding watershed is killed from the release of acid mine waste, the watershed will no longer support fish and other wild life and will no longer be usable for drinking purposes.
The upper reservoir would be created by a circular mound of compacted soil being as much as 100 feet deep. No mention has been made of what safety factors would be in place to prevent this reservoir from compromise/failure in the event of heavy rain and flooding such as what took place during the flood of 1985. Should either or both reservoirs fail, the populations at the lower end of the county would be at severe and life-threatening risk.
During the time that water is exchanged between the upper and lower reservoirs one of the reservoirs will become an unsightly mud flat that could possibly attract disease, carrying mosquitos that would affect the health and safety of local populations.
The job creation of the hydroelectric project has been touted for the number of high-paying jobs that will be created. The fact is, there would only be a small number of high-paying jobs at the project site itself. The remainder jobs would be in the form of lower end ancillary jobs not directly connected to the hydroelectric project itself.
I look to our leaders to aggressively seek out industries and businesses that will bring good-paying jobs that are not a negative impact on the county and its citizens.
Joseph W. Dumire