What comes to mind when you see the word "water"? Do you picture clear, shimmering streams? Or do you visualize the beautiful, turquoise waters of the ocean? No matter what images or feelings you have about water, there's no doubt about it- we all need clean water tolive. If you live in Alabama, it is possible that your drinking water could become polluted...very soon.
The Black Warrior River System, the largest watershed within the state of Alabama, is unique because it doesn't flow from just one source, but three primary forks which come together to create a mighty river: the Sipsey (western) Fork, Mulberry (center) Fork, and Locust (eastern) Fork. The Mulberry Fork is a current area of concern for pollution.
The Black Warrior Riverkeeper, one of the key organizations dedicated to keeping your drinking water clean, opposes the Shepherd Bend Mine, which would discharge wastewater from coal mining into Mulberry Fork only 800 feet (not miles) from a major Birmingham Water Works Board intake facility that supplies water daily to 200,000 customers in the Birmingham-Metro area.
On February 16, 2010, the Black Warrior Riverkeeper sent an open letter to the University of Alabama System asking that they not lease land or mineral rights to Shepherd Bend, LLC for a surface mine:
An Open Letter to the University of Alabama System
Dr. Robert E. Witt, President The University of Alabama 401 Queen City Avenue Tuscaloosa, AL 35401-1551
Re: Shepherd Bend Mine
Dear President Witt: Black Warrior Riverkeeper and other concerned citizens have been asking the University of Alabama (University) and the UA System Board of Trustees (Trustees) not to lease land or mineral rights to Shepherd Bend, LLC for a surface coal mine that will discharge polluted water to the Mulberry Fork of the Black Warrior River 800 feet upstream of a primary drinking water intake for the Birmingham Water Works Board (“BWWB”). In previous correspondence, we have supplied extensive scientific information which indicates that the Shepherd Bend Mine will likely result in mining-related pollutants flowing into the intake and on to the BWWB’s treatment facilities. Every single day, over 200,000 of Alabama’s citizens rely on this intake for clean, safe, and affordable drinking water. To date, neither the University nor the Trustees have taken a stand on this important issue of public interest, responding only that there is currently no proposal before you to lease the property. Given the fact that Shepherd Bend, LLC has the necessary regulatory permits to begin coal mining, we think it is time for the University and the Trustees to take a public stand as to whether you will lease land and mineral rights for this strip mine. With an emphasis on education and service as well as a mission of improving the quality of life for all Alabamians, it is entirely appropriate for the University and the Trustees to play a leadership role on the Shepherd Bend Mine issue. You have a unique opportunity to demonstrate the importance of prudent long-term stewardship over short term gain.
We ask that the University and the Trustees publicly answer this one question:
Will you lease land and mineral rights at Shepherd Bend
to Shepherd Bend, LLC for their coal mining operation?
YES or NO?
For a copy of this letter in PDF form, click here.
Elena White is Founder and Editor of Life The Green Way, Corporate Sustainability Coordinator at her day job, and a "rurban" wife and mother. Learn more about her here and follow her on Twitter at @Lifethegreenway.