Each operating location takes a precise, tailored approach to water quality management — one based on a comprehensive evaluation of needs, relevant habitats, and potential impacts.
Over the years, Arch has continually intensified its focus on oversight and reporting accuracy through increased employee training, cross training, and the broad implementation of real-time alert systems. As part of this effort, the Arch team employs a full suite of hand-held, digital tools that enhance efficiency, accuracy and data management associated with pond, run-off and other water quality inspections.
Through ongoing and systematic reviews of each operation’s water quality, Arch’s environmental professionals regularly identify opportunities to isolate storm water from materials that could affect water quality, thus removing the need for downstream treatment. This process includes diverting flows around the active mining operations to proactively minimize potential impacts.
Extraordinary Compliance Record
compliance rate in 2019
Arch performed over 322,000 water-quality tests and recorded just five exceedances.
Through the application of its Compliance Management System and its sharp focus on water quality management, Arch has achieved an extraordinary compliance record. During the past four years, Arch has tested an average of 381,000 water quality parameters per year at its current and former mining operations, and recorded an average of just five exceedances per year. In 2019, Arch performed over 322,000 water quality tests, and had just five exceedances. Arch’s compliance record sets the standard for the U.S. industry, and equates to a compliance rate of 99.998 percent, despite the frequent occurrence of extreme and fast-moving weather conditions in the mountainous terrain of Appalachia. In those rare instances when an exceedance has occurred, it has nearly always been minor in nature and has been addressed and brought back into compliance almost immediately.
Compliance Management System
For more than a decade, Arch has been operating in conformance with an EPA-approved Compliance Management System (CMS), modeled after the ISO 14001 Environmental Management System standard. Under our CMS, we require each subsidiary facility to maintain full compliance with all applicable environmental regulations and to monitor that performance in alignment with the Plan/Do/Check/Act model, also known as the Deming Cycle. Each operation regularly reviews its applicable regulatory framework and its environmental operating risks, ranks those risks and mitigates those risks accordingly. Each operation regularly performs self-evaluations of compliance performance, and that performance is supplemented by corporate environmental audits and third-party audits to double-check compliance performance and minimize risk of noncompliance or environmental harm. The CMS has built-in measures to drive continuous improvement, with emphasis on risk reduction and environmental performance improvement.
Annual environmental improvement plans are developed by each facility and incentives for outstanding environmental compliance performance are awarded. Underpinning the overall environmental program, Arch utilizes an industry-leading environmental management information system (EMIS) to assist in managing and tracking environmental data; compliance obligations; audit findings and corrective actions; and regular internal reporting of environmental activities. Arch continues to build out the capabilities of its EMIS to continue to improve the efficiency of compliance administration and to reduce risks of environmental harm.
Although coal mining is not a water-intensive process, Arch is constantly searching out opportunities to reduce the amount of water used per ton of coal produced. Two operations — the Viper mine in Illinois and the West Elk mine in Colorado — have achieved the goal of being “zero discharge” facilities, meaning that for the past five years they have effectively eliminated surface water discharges from the mine sites. Other Arch operations are pursuing a similar objective. Arch operations employ a wide array of strategies to minimize water usage. The company’s mines recycle and reuse water from on-site sources in the coal washing and preparation process, in road-dust suppression activities, and in other essential tasks. Closing the water loop and reducing water discharge points not only reduces the need for obtaining additional water resources, but also lowers the risk of environmental impact.
Reducing Water Discharge Points
discharge points eliminated
reduction since 2015
Arch operations have invested significant effort in conserving and protecting storm water to minimize the need to access outside water resources. Arch is currently collecting data on its water recycling activities and expects to provide additional detail on the amount of water it recycles annually in coming months. The company continues to explore ways to expand its recycling efforts still further. Through an intense focus on completing robust mine reclamation activities, Arch has eliminated over 500 discharge points at current and former mining operations since 2015. That equates to a reduction of nearly 50 percent of its total discharge points, with the goal of achieving further reductions in coming years.