The Aquatic Impacts of Coal Export

USFWSThreatening Critical Salmon Habitat

Coal companies want to locate three coal export terminals in the magnificent Columbia River Estuary, home to thirteen runs of threatened salmon and other endangered species. In Longview, Millennium proposes to store tens of millions of coal outdoors, year-round, and construct two new industrial ship berths on the Columbia. This will require dredging in shallow-water salmon and smelt critical habitat. A similar proposal is being brought forward by Kinder Morgan for Port Westward, near Clataskanie, Oregon. Ambre Energy has plans to barge coal down the Columbia River and transfer it to ocean-going vessels at Port Westward near critical and recently restored juvenile salmon habitat.  

Dirty Wastewater Discharges to the River

Coal export terminals in other parts of the U.S. are notoriously dirty. Massive coal piles are regularly sprayed with water in an attempt to suppress the clouds of coal dust associated with outdoor coal storage. This leads to large quantities of filthy wastewater that, along with stormwater runoff from acres of coal piles, will eventually discharge into the Columbia.

Coal Dust from Trains and at the Terminal

En route to the terminals, coal will travel in uncovered rail cars along hundreds of miles of the Columbia River. Burlington Northern Sante Fe (BNSF) railroad studies estimate that up to 500 pounds of coal can be lost in the form of dust from each rail car. At the Millennium terminal coal will be stored along the banks of the Columbia River. When ships arrive, coal will have to move across a series of conveyor belts and over the Columbia River to load the out-going ships.

Mercury from Coal Combustion Overseas

Mercury and other pollutants from coal-burning power plants travel from Asia to the West Coast where they poison our air, water, fish and food supply. In fact, the Washington Department of Ecology determined that every river in the state is threatened by unsafe levels of mercury, due largely to aerial deposition. Mercury is highly toxic and contaminates Columbia River fish, threatening the health—particularly of women and children—who eat the fish.


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