Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Episode 98 (February 6, 2012): Coal and Water, Part 2

Click to listen to episode (7:22).

Please see below (after the transcript and show notes) for links to news and upcoming events.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of February 6, 2012.

This week’s episode is the second in our series on connections between water quality and coal-mining in southwestern Virginia and in Appalachia generally.  This episode introduces two current water-quality challenges for coal-mining—total dissolved solids and selenium.  The speaker is Carl Zipper, associate professor in Virginia Tech’s Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences Department.  This six-minute excerpt is from Dr. Zipper’s presentation at the Virginia Soil and Water Conservation Society’s October 2011 symposium, “Coal, Uranium, and Natural Gas Extraction in Virginia.”  One technical note: in the excerpt you’ll hear the phrase “300 to 500 microsiemens.”  This is a measure of water’s electrical conductivity, which is used to estimate the amount of solids dissolved in water.


The next and final episode in this series will give the perspective of a representative of a major Virginia coal-mining company.

For other water sounds and music, and for more Virginia water information, visit our Web site at, or call us at (540) 231-5463.  From the Virginia Water Resources Research Center in Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.

Acknowledgments: Virginia Water Radio thanks Carl Zipper for permission to use excerpts from his talk at the “Coal, Uranium, and Natural Gas Extraction in Virginia” symposium, held October 20, 2011, in Charlottesville as part of the annual meeting of the Virginia Soil and Water Conservation Society.  More information on the symposium and links to the slide presentation by Dr. Zipper and to those by other speakers are available online at

Additional Information: Carl Zipper and several other speakers also discussed water-quality issues for Appalachian coal mining at the November 15, 2011, symposium, “Coal and Water in Central Appalachia: The Challenge to Balance.”  The symposium was organized by the Virginia Water Resources Research Center, West Virginia Water Research Institute, and Kentucky Water Resources Research Institute.  More information on the symposium and links to slide presentations by speakers are available online at

The Virginia Water Central News Grouper blog site (online at has a Coal and Water category, providing annotated links to recent news articles and other materials regarding the connections between water resources and the mining or use of coal.

On July 21, 2011, the U.S. EPA issued the final version of its regulatory guidance to Appalachian regional offices on regulation of surface coal mining (including mountaintop mining and associated valley fills) under the Clean Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and the Environmental Justice Executive Order.  A key feature of the guidance is the EPA’s call for states to implement a water-quality standard reflecting “best available science” about the relationship between measures of conductivity (as an indicator of the amount of total dissolved solids or salinity) and stream aquatic life.  The EPA’s Web site on regulation of surface coal mining is at; this site includes links to the July 21 guidance, a news release on the guidance, and many background documents.

Recent Virginia Water News
            For news relevant to Virginia's water resources, please visit the Virginia Water Central News Grouper, available online at

Water Meetings and Other Events
            For events related to Virginia's water resources, please visit the Quick Guide to Virginia Water–related Conferences, Workshops, and Other Events, online at  The site includes a list of Virginia government policy and regulatory meetings occurring in the coming week.