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Stream Protections Could Be “Washed Away” – Last Chance to Speak Up

November 21, 2007

Charleston, WV – This holiday week is the last chance for West Virginians to speak their minds on a federal rule change that critics say would put wildlife and water quality in jeopardy. A White House plan would repeal the "buffer zone" rule for mines, allowing them to dump mine waste directly into many West Virginia streams.

Cindy Rank with the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy says that is a recipe for disaster. She calls it a direct contradiction of the federal "Clean Water Act," which is supposed to protect water quality.

"When you're burying a stream one or two miles long, you are obliterating that stream. When the stream is not there any more, there is no more water quality."

The federal Office of Surface Mining says the change would remove confusion in current mining rules, which have been interpreted differently in the courts. Rank disagrees, saying federal agencies should provide stronger enforcement of the current rules, which are often ignored.

Rank says damage to streams can hurt the wildlife and communities downstream.

"There is an impact on fish and wildlife, of course, but whatever goes into the streams will then affect people's water, people's wells and everything downstream."

The official comment period ends on Friday. West Virginians can make comments at .

Rob Ferrett/Eric Mack, Public News Service - WV