Public Lab Research note

Reference: Coal leachate contaminants of concern to Washington Dept of Ecology

by eustatic | September 17, 2013 00:02 17 Sep 00:02 | #9335 | #9335

What I want to do

In our struggle to have coal export facilities clean up their mess, in lieu of agency concern, we are seeking objective evidence that coal harbors pollutants of concern, so that judges will share that concerns of the local community about coal runoff polluting our waters that we fish from.

relevant block quote and link to document

The corps ultimately issued the TransAlta permit with special conditions to mitigate the environmental impacts posed by coal trains and the materials leached and flushed from coal cars - not just at the site of the rail sidings themselves, but for several miles of track beyond.

Here’s what the corps said about coal train pollution in the TransAlta permit:

“The presence of contaminants at high concentration in some coal leachates and the demonstration of biological uptake of coal-derived contaminants in a small number of studies suggest that precipitation could wash potentially toxic amounts of potential chemical contaminants from loaded and unloaded coal cars.”

The list of contaminants includes arsenic, cadmium, mercury, chromium, lead, aluminum, beryllium, copper, iron, nickel, selenium and compounds of sulfur, zinc, polyaromatic hydrocarbons and other organic compounds and acids.

_The corps went on to say that there is “little quantitative information” about how much of these chemicals could leach into the surrounding wetlands but called attention to “potentially serious water quality impacts” associated with the dust and coal-tainted waters that could escape from standing rail cars over time. _ “These are all pollutants that can change biological activity,” said Tom Hruby, a senior wetland ecologist with the Washington Department of Ecology, when shown the list.

According to data from the National Wetlands Inventory, coal trains will travel through more than 15,000 acres of wetlands within 100 meters of the tracks along the route from the mines in the Powder River Basin to the proposed Northwest terminals.""

Recommendations for coal leachate impact mitigation included 22- feet distance plus tree buffer

_ the federal regulatory agency required the following “precautionary risk minimization measures” to protect nearby wetlands from coal pollution: _

  • Create a buffer zone with trees between the rail upgrade and surrounding restored wetlands.
  • Redesign a nearby wetland channel to maintain a 220-feet distance from the edge of the proposed rail upgrade project.
  • Maintain an 80-foot wide no-mow strip north of the edge of the rail upgrade.
  • Create a no-disturbance strip (at least 220 feet wide) between the rail upgrade and a nearby restored wetland area.

    Where do Louisiana terminals violate this rule?

    coming up next.

    Photo: United Bulk leachate contamination after Hurricane Isaac, 2012, Gulf Restoration Network and


    I'd seen that article-- and the fairly questionable position of the Corps that their position on effected areas had 'evolved'. Thanks for following up and digging in. The most troubling thing to me is that much of the coal to be exported is sub-bituminous coal that plants in the US don't want to burn because its so dirty. They're seeking an export market so it can be burned on the other side of the pacific rim. See the locations of existing, expanding, and proposed terminals here:

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