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Hazardous Mine Lands – Comparisons Between States

The previous post concerned the total inventory of abandoned mine lands in Missouri. This post focuses on high priority abandoned mine lands: those that pose an extreme danger to public health and safety (Priority 1) and those that pose a threat to public health and safety (Priority 2).

Priority Units ChartAs of April 2015 Missouri had 144,282 Priority 1 and 2 units, and reclamation had been completed on 95,520 of them, leaving 48,762 awaiting reclamation. Total priority 1 and 2 reclamation costs were estimated at $104,310,086, of which $54,354,686 had been completed and $49,955,400 had not. (e-AMLIS Database, 2015)

The first chart at right shows the number of Priority 1 and 2 units for Missouri and 5 neighboring states. Blue represents completed reclamation, red represents uncompleted. Don’t forget that a unit can be acres of spoiled land, individual buildings or structures, hazardous bodies of water, vertical openings, or dangerous highwall, so one cannot directly translate number of units to environmental threat or cost to reclaim.

Priority Costs ChartThe second chart at right shows the estimated costs to reclaim Priority 1 and 2 sites for those same states. Blue represents completed work, red represents uncompleted. This chart may be a more informative representation of the amount of work accomplished so far, and the amount yet to do. It shows that in terms of costs, Missouri has completed more than half of the work required to reclaim its high priority sites. Arkansas has completed about 2/3, Illinois not quite 1/2, and Iowa not quite 1/2. Kentucky, a big coal mining state, has had a larger reclamation challenge, but even they have completed more than half of the work. Kansas, on the other hand, has completed not quite 1/10 of the work. They are just getting started. (e-AMLIS Database, 2015)

Pennsylvania is the state with the largest amount of abandoned mine land, and the state with the largest reclamation challenge. They have more than 22 times as many Priority 1 and 2 units as does Missouri, and the estimated cost to reclaim them is $4.6 billion, some 44 times as much as Missouri’s cost. (e-AMLIS Database, 2015)

Difference ChartThe third chart at right shows changes in the number of uncompleted units and uncompleted costs (Kentucky is not included in this one). Missouri and Iowa had an increase in the number of uncompleted Priority 1 and 2 units, while the other states had a reduction. All states except Kansas had a reduction in the estimated costs to reclaim them. (e-AMLIS Database, 2015) Since Missouri reclaimed 4,895 units during 2014 (Alton Field Office, 2015), the number of units could increase only if new lands were classified as Priority 1 or 2, or if, upon closer inspection, single units were split into multiple units. The data does not say which occurred.

In my next post, I will report on some other interesting facts in the most recent reports on abandoned mine lands.

Sources:

Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement. e-AMLIS Database. For this post I clicked on the Summary tab. The summary provides data on high priority sites only. I then used the drop down menu to select individually each state I wanted to study. I downloaded the data on 4/14/2015.

Alton Field Division, Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement. 2015. Annual Evaluation Report for the Regulatory Program and the Abandoned Mine Land Program Administered by the State Regulatory Authority of Missouri. U.S. Department of the Interior. http://apps.dnr.mo.gov/env/lrp/docs/Missouri2014AnnualEvaluationReport.pdf.

Missouri Abandoned Mine Lands Increase – Again

Raw Data ChartBetween April 2014 and April 2015 the number of units of abandoned mine land in Missouri increased by 0.74% according to a federal database (e-AMLIS, 4/15/2015). The data is shown in the graphic at right: blue represents land on which reclamation has been completed, red represents land funded for reclamation but not completed, and green represents land awaiting funding for reclamation.

(Click on graphic for larger view.)

Mines create environmental hazards if efforts are not made to prevent it. The hazards range from piles of material that can leach hazardous substances, to clogged streams, to polluted or hazardous water bodies, to vertical openings into which victims can fall, to dangerous walls, dams, and structures that can collapse.

The federal government keeps an inventory of identified abandoned mine lands, the e-AMLIS Database. There can be several units at one abandoned mine site. For instance, one might be a pile of tailings, another might be an abandoned building, and a third might be a highwall. The units of mine land in the statistics may refer to acres of spoiled land, number of unsafe structures, or lengths of unsafe highwall. You can’t translate directly from units to acres of land.

Map of MO Abandoned Mine LandsThe map at right shows the location of abandoned mine lands in the e-AMLIS inventory in Missouri and in nearby regions of neighboring states as of April 2015.

Since the 1970s, mine operators have been required to restore mine land when mining operations cease. Compliance is enforced through a bonding system. Most of Missouri’s abandoned mine lands result from mines abandoned before the 1970s. The Missouri Land Reclamation Authority estimates that as many as 107,000 acres of mine lands have been abandoned in Missouri, about 0.2% of the entire state. (Missouri Department of Natural Resources, 2014, p.3) Not all of it has been inventoried, and I don’t know the status of the uninventoried land.

During 2014 Missouri completed reclamation of 5 acres of clogged stream land, 2 acres of gob, 4,890 feet of dangerous highwall, 3 hazardous water bodies, and 1 vertical opening, at a total cost of $1,453,278. More than half of the high priority land has been reclaimed (more on that in the next post), but an estimated $109,849,728 of reclamation work remains unfunded. At 2014’s rate of spending, it will be 75 years before the work is finished. (Alton Field Office, 2015, AML Tables 2 and 3) Cleaning up environmental damage can be a long, expensive effort.

The law requires that abandoned coal mines be reclaimed before other abandoned mines, and it requires high priority lands be reclaimed before low priority lands. Priority 1 lands (those posing an extreme danger to public health and safety) and Priority 2 lands (those posing a threat to public health and safety) are high priority. Priority 3 lands (those involving the restoration of land previously degraded by mining) are low priority. More on high priority abandoned mine lands in the next post.

Sources:

Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement. e-AMLIS Database. I used the Advanced Query, State = Missouri, County = All, District = All, Priority = All, Problem Type = All, Program = All, Funding = All, Mining Type = All.

For the map, I used the e-AMLIS Database, but I used the mapping function.

Alton Field Division, Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement. 2015. Annual Evaluation Report for the Regulatory Program and the Abandoned Mine Land Program Administered by the State Regulatory Authority of Missouri. U.S. Department of the Interior. http://apps.dnr.mo.gov/env/lrp/docs/Missouri2014AnnualEvaluationReport.pdf.

Missouri Department of Natural Resources. 2014. 2012-2013 Land Reclamation Program Biennial Report. http://dnr.mo.gov/pubs.

Missouri Superfund Sites Remain the Same

In 1980, the U.S. Congress enacted the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, designed to clean up sites contaminated with hazardous substances. This program is what is known by the common name of Superfund. Using a number of criteria, the EPA assigns a hazard score to each site, and those above the designated threshold are assigned to the National Priorities List (NPL) for clean up. Superfund SitesThe NPL sites are what we commonly call Superfund sites. I first reported on NPL sites in February, 2013. This post updates the information.

The number of NPL sites in Missouri and several other states are given in the table at right. Some of the sites are mine sites, but others represent contamination by industrial or agricultural chemicals and pollutants. Between 2009 and 2014, the number of sites North Dakota, Iowa, and Missouri stayed the same. IIllinois and Kansas each had one site removed from the list, while New Jersey had 3 sites added.

The map at right shows the location of the sites in Missouri. Yellow diamonds are sites on the NPL. Green circles are sites that were on the list, but have been removed. The sites cluster around St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield, Joplin, and the Lead Belt mining region. In many cases, the contaminated land cannot be reclaimed. NPL Map 2014Rather, it must be removed and placed in a structure designed to prevent the contamination from escaping for a very long time. Because of discrepancies between data sources, a precise count of completed work cannot be provided here.

Information about specific sites can be found at the EPA National Priorities List website, and also in the 2013 Missouri Registry Annual Report published by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

Sources

Final National Priorities List (NPL) Sites – by State, http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/query/queryhtm/nplfin.htm#MO

Map: NPL Map Using Google Maps, http://www.epa.gov/superfund/sites/query/queryhtm/nplmapsg.htm.

Missouri Department of Conservation. 2013. Missouri Registry Annual Report, 2013. http://www.dnr.mo.gov/env/hwp/sfund/sfundregistry.htm.

Off-Site Impacts from Abandoned Mine Lands

Two recent posts have focused on the Missouri program to reclaim hazardous abandoned mine lands. Missouri Abandoned Mine Lands Increase reported that, despite reclamation efforts, the number of acres awaiting reclamation increased in Missouri between February 2013 and April 2014. Hazardous Mine Lands – Contrasts Between States reported that reclamation efforts focus first on abandoned mine lands that pose the greatest threat, called Priority 1 & 2. Compared to its neighbors, Missouri has fewer Priority 1 & 2 units, has a lower estimated cost to reclaim them, and has reclaimed a greater fraction of them.

Untitled 2Mine reclamation programs also focus on containing the impact from an abandoned mine to the site where it is located. Since 2001, the number of off-site impacts in Missouri has declined from 18 to 2 (see chart at right). This chart comes from the federal government, which oversees state land reclamation efforts. It includes years through 2013, while the most recent report by the Missouri Land Reclamation Program only includes the years through 2011.

(Click on chart for larger view.)

In some years, the federal government and the state government disagree on the number of off-site impacts by one or two. Why is not clear, but the data comes from on-site inspections, and there could be differences between inspection procedures or the sites chosen for inspection. MO Coal Production 1995-2012That would be an interesting topic for further exploration, though it is beyond the scope of this blog.

The Missouri Land Reclamation Program reports that mining for lead, iron, limestone, sand and gravel began in Missouri as early as the 1740s. Coal mining, however, began in the 1840s, and coal miners left as many as 67,000 acres of unreclaimed land, while mining for other commodities left a combined 40,000 acres. In 1987, Missouri coal production was as high as 4.2 million tons, but it has declined since then. The second chart at right shows the trend since 1995.

(Click on chart for larger view.)

West Montrose Mine before and after reclamation. Source: 2010-2011 Land Reclamation Program Biennial Report.

West Montrose Mine before and after reclamation. Source: 2010-2011 Land Reclamation Program Biennial Report.

Harrisburg Mine before and after reclamation. Source: 2010-2011 Land Reclamation Program Biennial Report.

Harrisburg Mine before and after reclamation. Source: 2010-2011 Land Reclamation Program Biennial Report.

The Missouri Land Reclamation Program makes closing hazardous vertical mine openings a priority. While very important, they don’t photograph as dramatically as do surface mines. The photos at right show before and after shots of two surface mine reclamation projects, to illustrate the kinds of problems addressed and the results that can be achieved.

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Sources:

Missouri Department of Natural Resources. 2013. 2010-2011 Land Reclamation Program Biennial Report. Publication 2473. MODNR Home Page » Publications » 2010 and 2011 Biennial Report. http://dnr.mo.gov/pubs/pub2473.pdf.

Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement. 2013. Annual Evaluation Report for the Regulatory and Abandoned Mine Land Programs Administered by the State of Missouri for Evaluation Year 2013. http://odocs.osmre.gov. This URL displayed a database query. I selected the fields as follows: State: Missouri. Keyword: blank. Evaluation Year: 2013. Category: Annual Evaluation Report.

Hazardous Mine Lands – Contrasts Between States

In the previous post, I reported that the amount of abandoned mine land in Missouri awaiting reclamation increased between February, 2013 and April 2014, despite Missouri’s ongoing Land Reclamation Program. The federal database of abandoned mine land (e-AMLIS) prioritizes the lands according to how imminent a threat they represent to people, land, water, and property. Priorities 1 and 2 are the ones that represent the greatest threat to safety.

As of April 2014, Missouri was shown as having 127,151 Priority 1 & 2 units, and that reclamation had been completed on 91,615 of them, leaving 35,537 awaiting reclamation. Total Priority 1 & 2 reclamation costs were estimated at $59.4 million, of which $45.0 million had been completed, and $14.4 million had not.

Priority Costs ChartPriority Units ChartThe first chart at right shows the number of total Priority 1 & 2 units, and the number of uncompleted Priority 1 & 2 units in Missouri and several surrounding states. The second chart shows the estimated costs to reclaim them. Compared to these other states, Missouri has fewer total units, has made better progress reclaiming them, and has fewer future costs to endure.

(Click on chart for larger view.)

For comparison sake, I searched the database to find the state with the highest number of Priority 1 & 2 units, and the highest estimated costs to reclaim them. It turned out to be Pennsylvania. Where Missouri has 35,537 uncompleted units, Pennsylvania has 2,172,728, or 61 times as many. Where Missouri faces $14.4 million in future costs to reclaim these lands, Pennsylvania faces $5.2 billion, with a “B.” That is 362 times Missouri’s estimated cost.

Difference ChartFinally, I have data that allows me to compare the number of uncompleted Priority 1 & 2 units between February 2013 and April 2014 for Missouri, Illinois, Arkansas, Kansas, and Iowa. The third chart at right shows the results. Missouri, Arkansas, and Iowa all reduced the number of units, Iowa by a very substantial fraction. Thus, the increase in Missouri’s unreclaimed mine land appears to have involved lower priority sites, not high priority ones.

The number of units increased a little in Illinois, and they increased by over 54,000% in Kansas. Oh, my! A review of the data revealed that this startling increase was not an error by your humble reporter. Rather, Kansas did not report any dangerous highwall in 2013, but they reported a great deal of it in 2014. Highwall is reported by the linear foot in e-AMLIS. Kansas reported astonishingly little Priority 1 & 2 land in 2013 compared to its neighbors, and more than half of the 2014 highwall has already been reclaimed, so I suspect that the difference represents a change in reporting or a reporting error, not the discovery of new abandoned mine land.

In my next post, I will report on some other interesting items in the most recent reports on abandoned mine lands.

Sources:

Missouri Department of Natural Resources. 2013. 2010-2011 Land Reclamation Program Biennial Report. Publication 2473. MODNR Home Page » Publications » 2010 and 2011 Biennial Report. http://dnr.mo.gov/pubs/pub2473.pdf

Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement. Abandoned Mine Land Inventory System (e-AMLIS). OSMRE Home Page » Programs »e-AMLIS. http://www.osmre.gov/programs/amlis.shtm.

Missouri Abandoned Mine Lands Increase

e-AMLIS Chart 2014The number of acres of abandoned mine land in Missouri increased by 1.44% between 2013 and 2014, according to a federal database. Reclamation on 97 acres was completed, but despite these efforts, the acreage of unfunded land awaiting reclamation increased by almost 1%. The data is shown in the charts at right: blue represents land on which reclamation has been completed, red represents land funded for reclamation but not completed, and green represents land awaiting funding for reclamation.

(Click on chart for larger view.)

Mines create environmental hazards if efforts are not made to prevent it. They range from piles of material that can leach hazardous substances, to clogged streams, to polluted or hazardous water bodies, to vertical openings into which victims can fall, to dangerous walls, dams, and structures that can collapse.

Since the 1970s, mine operators have been required to restore mine land when mining operations cease. Compliance is enforced through a bonding system. Some operators, however, choose to forfeit the bond rather than perform the reclamation. When that occurs, the site becomes an abandoned mine. In addition, many mines were abandoned before the 1970s. Thus, many states contain abandoned mines that have not been restored. The Missouri Land Reclamation Authority estimates that as many as 107,000 acres of mine lands have been abandoned in Missouri, about 0.2% of the entire state.

The federal government keeps an inventory of identified abandoned mine lands, the e-AMLIS Database. The first set of charts at right show the number of abandoned mine land units in Missouri, the number of acres involved, and the estimated cost to reclaim the land. There can be several units at one abandoned mine site. For instance, one might be a pile of tailings, another might be an abandoned building, and a third might be a highwall.

Notice first that the total acreage catalogued in the database is about 1/5 of the total acreage estimated by the Missouri Land Reclamation Authority. The other 4/5 doesn’t even make it into the inventory, and I don’t know its status. If you do, why not post a comment sharing what you know?

Between February 2013 and April 2014 reclamation was completed on 4,902 units, covering 97.09 acres, at a cost of about $1.7 million. As of April, 2014, 2,102 units were funded for reclamation, covering 150.3 acres, at a cost of $932,900. But despite these efforts, the number of unfunded units increased by 2,582.2, and the number of unfunded acres increased by 289.4. Oddly, the estimated cost to reclaim the unfunded land decreased by $504,318, I’m not sure why.

Abandoned Mine Lands Map 2013The map at right shows the location of the sites in the database. They run in an arc from south of St. Louis, into Northern Missouri, to the southwestern corner of Missouri. The highest concentration is along the border with Kansas and Oklahoma. The map also includes portions of several other states for comparison.

Funding is most likely the limiting factor on how fast the land can be reclaimed. But funding varies from year-to-year, and the data provide three different amounts that could be used as estimates of average yearly funding: the funding in 2013, the funding in 2014, and the amount that completed funding increased between the two dates. Using an average of the 2013 and 2014 funding, one can calculate that it will take 145 years to work through the unfunded inventory. The calculation assumes that funding will remain constant and that remediation costs will not change.

It seems like a long time, and it is. Keep in mind, however, that not all of the abandoned mine land represents an imminent hazard to people, flora, or fauna. Only a portion does, and I will discuss these most hazardous abandoned mine lands in the next post.

Sources:

Missouri Department of Natural Resources. 2013. 2010-2011 Land Reclamation Program Biennial Report. Publication 2473. MODNR Home Page » Publications » 2010 and 2011 Biennial Report. http://dnr.mo.gov/pubs/pub2473.pdf

Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement. Abandoned Mine Land Inventory System (e-AMLIS). OSMRE Home Page » Programs »e-AMLIS. http://www.osmre.gov/programs/amlis.shtm.

Eighty-Four Percent of Missouri Toxic Waste Is “Managed”

Releases by Category ChartIn my previous post I discussed the EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory, and provided a chart showing the total amount of toxic materials released in Missouri for the years 2002-2012.

Toxic materials can be released into the air, they can be discharged into surface water, they can be held in impoundments, they can be injected into wells, and they can be landfilled or spread on the land. The first chart at right shows Missouri toxic releases by category in 2012. The vast amount of releases occur at the site where the toxics are generated (vs. being transported off-site for disposal). Almost 2/3 of the releases involve release into an impoundment of one sort or another. The next largest amount involves emission into the air.

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Managed by CategoryToxics can also be managed by recycling, by energy recovery, by treatment, or by other methods. The second chart at right shows Missouri managed toxic wastes in 2012. The largest amount is recycled for reuse. The next largest amount is treated to make it less toxic.

The total amount of managed toxic waste in Missouri in 2012 was 360 million pounds. The total amount of toxic releases were 70 million pounds. Thus, about 84% of Missouri toxics were managed in some fashion in 2012, while 16% were released. Nationally, about 23.5 billion pounds of toxic waste were managed in 2012 (87% of the total) , while 3.6 billion pounds were released (13% of the total).

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Top Releasing IndustriesThe industries responsible for releasing the largest amounts of toxic chemicals are shown in the third chart. Releases in Missouri are shown as the blue line and should be read on the left vertical axis. Releases in the United States are shown as red bars, and should be read on the right vertical axis. Metal mining is the largest, both in Missouri and nationwide, with more than double the releases of the next largest releasing industry. In Missouri, electric utilities are second, but nationwide it is the chemicals industry. I was surprised to see how much toxic material was released by the food, beverage, and tobacco industry. That it releases more than the petroleum and the plastics & rubber industries blows my mind!

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MO Chemicals ChartThe top 10 toxic chemicals released in Missouri in 2012 are shown in the third chart at right. The top five are all associated with the metal mining industry.

Chemicals that are persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic (PBT) are of most concern to the EPA. Lead accounts for 98% of PBT releases nationwide. Lead emissions are driven by mining activities, and more lead was released in Missouri in 2012 than any other toxic compound. Mercury is also a PBT of concern. Coal burning power plants are the largest source of mercury emissions in the United States. Nationwide, mercury emissions have been falling, from over 140,000 lb. in 2004 to under 80,000 in 2012. It was the 57th most heavily released chemical in Missouri in 2012. Information about all these chemicals can be found on the EPA website or on Wikipedia.

Sources:

Environmental Protection Agency. 2014. Missouri State Fact Sheet, TRI Explorer. http://iaspub.epa.gov/triexplorer/tri_broker_statefs.broker?p_view=STCO&SFS=YES&trilib=TRIQ1&state=MO&year=2012

Environmental Protection Agency. 2014. 2012 Toxics Release Inventory National Analysis Overview. http://www2.epa.gov/toxics-release-inventory-tri-program/2012-tri-national-analysis.

Information on specific industries and specific chemicals releases came from the EPA TRI Explorer data portal. The data was viewed 3/13/14 at http://iaspub.epa.gov/triexplorer/tri_release.chemical.

Missouri Toxic Releases Down 2% in 2012

In February, 2013, I published a post on the Toxic Release Inventory with data through 2011. This post updates the information for 2012, the most recent year available.

Many industrial processes use or produce toxic substances. These substances must be properly handled to prevent harm to people, land, and water. After a series of disasters in the 1970s and 1980s, Congress passed the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act in 1986, and the Pollution Prevention Act in 1990. These laws require facilities to report releases, transfers, and waste management of toxic material.

The Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) of the EPA gathers this information and makes it available to the public on their website. In addition, they publish annual fact sheets and analyses. The TRI data does not cover all toxic materials or facilities, but it does cover an important set of them. New for 2012, releases of hydrogen sulfide, a poisonous gas that smells like rotten eggs, have been included in the data.

Toxic substances are recycled, burned to generate electricity, injected into wells, stored, landfilled, emitted into the air, discharged into surface water, and spread over the land. They can be handled either on-site or off-site. Determining whether any of these activities represents a potential hazard to people, land, or water is complex. One cannot simply assume that on-site means safe, or that emission or discharge means that there is toxic exposure. The statistics in the TRI are only a starting point.

Missouri Toxic Releases 2012In the graph at right, the blue line shows total releases and disposal of toxic materials in Missouri from 2002-2012. In 2007, the EPA changed the minimum reporting threshold from 2,000 to 5,000 pounds, suggesting that comparisons between years may not be valid. Over the entire time period, toxic releases and disposal decreased by 4%. While there does not appear to be a significant discontinuity in the data following 2007, the data shows a rapid increase until 2005, followed by a rapid decrease. The percentage differences are very large: between 2002 and 2004 the increase was 56% From 2004-2012, the decrease was 39%. Such large , rapid changes may, indeed, reflect changes in data gathering rather than actual changes in the amount of toxic materials. A report tracking the changes and making an “apples-to-apples” comparison across years would be most welcome. If you know of one, let me know about it by posting a comment.

Interestingly, Missouri releases declined 2% between 2011 and 2012, despite the addition of sulfur dioxide to the list. Some other data suggests that Missouri may lag the nation by a couple of years in implementing changes, so it will be interesting to follow this trend in upcoming years.

My next post will explore the industries and the chemicals that account for the most toxic releases.

Sources:

State Fact Sheet, TRI Explorer, 2012. http://iaspub.epa.gov/triexplorer/tri_broker_statefs.broker?p_view=STCO&SFS=YES&trilib=TRIQ1&state=MO&year=2012.

Manufacturing Employment in Missouri, FRED Economic Data, Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis, http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/graph/?s[1][id]=MOMFGN.

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