No. 5 Mine

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Take Action: Stop Coal Mine Pollution from Contaminating a Birmingham Drinking Water Source

The Alabama Surface Mining Commission (ASMC) is currently accepting public comments concerning the renewal of a coal mining permit for the No. 5 Mine. This proposed 506 acre surface coal mine would discharge wastewater out of 23 points into the Mulberry Fork of the Black Warrior River, upstream of a drinking water intake for 200,000 people in great Birmingham.

Submit written comments to Milton McCarthy, Alabama Surface Mining Commission at P.O. Box 2390, Jasper, AL 35502-2390,
or via e-mail at [email protected].
Comment deadline: 3/29/19.

The No. 5 Mine is being proposed by Mays Mining, Inc. despite major opposition along the Mulberry Fork of the Black Warrior River near Dovertown and Cordova. The proposed mine would be 5.5 miles upstream of one of greater Birmingham’s major drinking water intakes, which provides water for 200,000 people daily. The Birmingham Water Works Board (BWWB) is actively opposing the mine’s permit as written, which authorizes a surface coal mine at a former industrial site with contaminated groundwater. Drinking water customers and all concerned, for a limited time, have the opportunity to comment on this coal mine permit. We urge you to do so.

Black Warrior Riverkeeper opposes the No. 5 Mine for the following reasons:

1. No. 5 Mine will discharge polluted water into the Mulberry Fork and its tributaries only 5.5 miles upstream of a primary drinking water intake for the BWWB, the Mulberry Intake, which serves 200,000 greater Birmingham area customers daily.

2. The Mulberry Fork has an official state designated use classification of “Public Water Supply,” and therefore should not be subjected to 23 polluted water discharge points.

3. The Birmingham Water Works Board’s 2013 Source Water Assessment identifies a “Source Water Protection Area” along the Mulberry Fork and its tributaries fifteen miles upstream and a quarter mile downstream of the Mulberry Intake. This area includes a 500 foot buffer along the river and its main tributaries. The proposed mine significantly encroaches within the SWPA.

4. As a result of litigation by the BWWB, the ASMC and No. 5 Mine were ordered by a court to demonstrate how mining could safely occur on the industrial portion of the property; their first attempt was deemed inadequate and the court ordered them to try again or they could not mine that portion of the site.

5. The ASMC permit does not adequately address prior industrial contamination at the site.

6. According to prior BWWB comments, No. 5 Mine “has the potential to adversely impact the Birmingham area drinking water.”

7. The drinking water source, the Mulberry Fork, already carries a heavy pollutant burden at times. Additional pollutant loading into the source upstream of the intake is not advisable.

8. If the mine leads to greater demands on treatment operations as well as increased treatment costs, these costs will be paid by ratepayers, not the mining company.

9. Previous comment letters on the mine submitted by the BWWB and Riverkeeper incorporate extensive data about the possible impacts of mining on aquatic resources and the public water source. In sum, those comments conclusively demonstrate that permitting coal mine operations so close to a public drinking water source simply cannot and should not happen.

10. The social and economic impacts associated with the contamination of the water source for 200,000 people more than outweigh any economic benefit of the mine.

11. Locals who live nearby don’t want this mine to ruin their community and the river.

12. This section of river is beautiful and forested. It is frequented by fishermen and boaters who enjoy the wild feel of the area. This mine will ruin those experiences.

13. Flattened musk turtles, rare turtles listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act, live in the Mulberry Fork immediately downstream of the proposed mine. Polluted water, sediment, and heavy metals from the mine’s discharges would have a negative impact on their habitat, on the food they eat, and on water quality. For flattened musk turtles to survive, they need good water quality and habitat that isn’t overloaded by siltation.

14. Despite the number of coal mines on the Mulberry Fork, to date there has been no study of the cumulative impacts all these mines will have on the river – our drinking water source.

In light of these concerns and permit deficiencies, Black Warrior Riverkeeper opposes the permitting of No. 5 Mine by the ASMC.  Join us in making your voice heard!

BWWB Mulberry Intake ~ looking upriver

Locals and advocacy groups have been fighting proposals to mine coal at this site since at least 2006.  While the No. 5 Mine has received necessary state and federal permits to mine coal in the past, no mining has taken place at the proposed site to date.

Here are some resources relevant to this ill-conceived coal mining proposal:

Source Water Protection Area Map (BWWB 2013)

Source Water Map (BWWB 2018)

ASMC Permit Map (P-3957)

ASMC Permit Renewal (February 2019)

BWWB v. ASMC Order (10/28/16)

BWWB v. ASMC Order (11/2/18)

BWWB ASMC Permit Comments (8/9/11)

BWRk ASMC Permit Comments (8/10/12)

ADEM NPDES Permit Map (AL0079936)

ADEM Draft Permit (9/7/17)

ADEM Final Permit (3/1/18)

BWWB ADEM NPDES Permit Comments (11/10/17)

BWRk ADEM NPDES Permit Comments (10/10/17)

What this is not: The Shepherd Bend Mine. We defeated that larger proposed coal mine in 2015. The No. 5 Mine proposal is smaller, 3 miles upstream, and unrelated to The University of Alabama.

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