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All water affected by the mining operation must pass through approved sediment control structures before leaving the mine site to prevent water pollution. The operator must comply not only with the mining laws but also applicable State and Federal water quality laws, including obtaining water discharge permits issued by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. Siltation structures must remain until permanent vegetation is well established and water entering the pond meets water quality standards. Ponds not approved for retention after mining must be filled and reclaimed.
Groundwater is monitored during mining also. If an adjacent water source used for drinking water is affected by contamination, depletion or interruption due to surface mining activities, the operator will furnish an alternative water supply.
Coal processing waste must also be properly disposed so surface and ground water are not impacted. The operation plan submitted with the permit must detail where coal will be stockpiled as well as what type of cleaning and processing are to occur. The waste produced from the coal cleaning process can be potentially acid-forming and detrimental to plant life. The material must be adequately treated or covered with an adequate layer of nontoxic, noncombustible earthen material, to neutralize and prevent production of acid water. Toxic materials must be placed in areas of the mine where contact with surface and groundwater is minimized.
Reclamation specialists do test water that leaves a mine site to ensure the water meets quality standards that are set by the Environmental Protection Agency and enforced by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. If water quality does not meet standards, the reclamation specialist gives the operator a notice of violation. The operator is given a specified amount of time to come into compliance or risk civil penalties or even cessation of mining.