Do We Have Enough Water for Communities and Coal?

The lack of rain and extreme temperatures has prompted cities of Hillsboro and Litchfield to encourage conservation and caution in water usage.  Hillsboro has even activated an existing city ordinance #1416 that regulates water usage to minimize evaporation and households’ watering distribution.  Offenders may be fined $50 to $500 for a water violation.

A definite warning sign came on July 3 when Glenn Shoals Lake, Hillsboro’s water supply, dropped 2 ½ feet below the normal level and that required Deer Run Mine to stop withdrawal of raw water on July 9, 2012.  (reported in The Hillsboro Journal-News, July 12, 2012)    The purchase agreement between the city and the mine stipulates that the mine must stop withdrawal of water when the lake level drops 2 ½ feet below normal. However, as reported in The Hillsboro Journal-News, August 2, 2012, Glenn Shoal Lake is 4 feet lower than pool level according to Roger Fath, the water superintendent.

Although Deer Run also has a purchase agreement with the city of Litchfield to withdraw raw water from Lake Lou Yaeger, the pipe installation has not yet been completed to transport the water over to Deer Run.  Litchfield’s contract will supply up to 2.5 million gallons per day from Lake Lou Yaeger to Deer Run during March through September provided that the water level does not drop more than 2 feet below the spillway.  Jim Cadwell, the Lake Lou Yaeger superintendent, reported on July 19, 2012 that the lake was dropping ½ inch per day and at that time was 13 inches lower than normal.  The level of water in Lake Lou Yaeger would obviously be much lower if water were removed for the mine.  With or without the drought, the problem for many lake homeowners on Lake Lou Yaeger is that there are several shallow areas and coves (5-inch depth in some areas) where residents cannot use their boats even though they have a contract for lake access.

Lake Lou Yaeger as well as Glenn Shoals has major siltation problems that are not addressed by either city. Both cities assured the residents before the mine was built that money from selling water to Deer Run Mine would be used to manage, maintain, and dredge the lake if needed.  Unfortunately, both cities placed the coal money in the general fund with no specific designation to be used for care of the lake. These two lakes are precious resources that must be cared for because no water translates into destroyed communities.

The real question is, “why community lake water is sold as an industrial commodity?” when it is so desperately needed by citizens.  Water contracts are made and fulfilled without consideration of present or future needs of the community.