Clean Water Enforcement: Improving Water Quality

Appalachian Mountain Advocates has worked with expert scientists for more than a decade to help the courts, the public and government agencies understand how mining severely degrades water quality. Our work in and out of the courtroom has laid the groundwork and provided the funds necessary for major water quality restoration projects on countless streams across central Appalachia.


The coal mining process churns up massive quantities of rock, exposing it to air and water for the first time in hundreds of thousands of years. Over time, naturally occurring elements leech out of the rock and run off into our water.

This leeching becomes particularly dangerous when certain elements are present. Selenium, for example, is a toxin that can severely disrupt aquatic life and harm human health. It also accumulates in the food chain, meaning that even tiny amounts can cause significant damage.

We’ve likewise found that ionic pollution, another regular byproduct of mining, is highly correlated with biological impairment, making the affected water harmful or even toxic to the wildlife it once hosted.


Appalmad attorneys spend countless hours monitoring water quality data to ensure that polluters are held accountable for unpermitted discharges of dangerous water pollutants. We fight in and out of the courtroom to put the cost of cleaning up our water onto the polluters who created the problem.

Our work has won hundreds of millions of dollars in clean-up costs from coal companies. We have driven the scientific research necessary to show the connection between certain pollutants and stream health. Our work has also sparked innovations in clean-up technology, making it cheaper than ever before to address pollutants like selenium.

The coal companies try to promote coal as cheap energy, ignoring the real costs associated with the mess mining leaves behind. We make sure those clean-up costs are paid by the polluters, not the public.