In a recent science article recently published by the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences in the Ecological Economic Reviews issue entitled “Full cost accounting for the life cycle of coal” by Paul R. Epstein and eleven other authors, several startling new facts regarding the mining practice of mountaintop removal were outlined. First, mountaintop removal is the relatively recent practice of leveling mountains and filling streams to gain access to and remove coal seams. Mountaintop removal has been completed on five hundred sites in Kentucky, West Virginia, Tennessee, and Virginia. This means that there are five hundred mountains and ridges that no longer exist. In addition, 2,000 miles of streams have been buried and rerouted. The effluent from the coal mining sites is estimated to be polluting 2,500 miles of additional downstream rivers and streams. A total of 1.4 acres of forest have also been removed. In West Virginia alone, there are 110 billion gallons of coal slurry in impoundments. These impoundments are associated with coal refining plants. Fifty-three of Appalachia impoundments have already failed, including one that spilled 309 million gallons in 2000.
The article also outlines the health risk to the local communities caused by the air and water contamination. However, reports of cancer clusters admittedly needs further study.