Citizen Water Monitoring and Enforcement


The water monitoring initiative is a key priority because water quality has recently become a major flashpoint in the fight against destructive methods of strip mining. In light of a recent guidance by the EPA, data on conductivity levels – used to approximate levels of heavy metals — in impacted streams can be used to affect an understanding of a permit’s narrative water quality standard and, ultimately, the outcome of the permit.

With quantifiable waterway health data, SAMS can provide regulatory agencies with the evidence necessary to prevent new surface mine permits, evidence that these agencies are often unable (or unwilling) to obtain.

Water monitoring is about keeping community watersheds healthy, but also engaging citizens in monitoring their communities’ waterways and taking action to protect their most valuable resource, water. Since June of 2010, SAMS members have been monitoring their watershed for conductivity and pH. Recently, through a partnership with Appalachian Water Watch, SAMS has obtained a new monitoring probe that measures conductivity, pH, total dissolved solids, and temperature. Data collected from regular monitoring excursions are compiled in a database at the SAMS office, shared with ally organizations, and used to appeal to the EPA to veto individual permits, and for stricter water quality mandates and stronger enforcement. This probe is meant for community use; if you or someone you know is concerned about the impact of mountaintop removal mining on their watershed, please contact us for use of this probe and/or guidance on how to engage with effective citizen enforcement. SAMS works to broaden the impact of this program, by continuing to arm community members with the capability to gather data, keep their own records, and take regulation into the their own hands toward the goal of preventing illegal mining and identifying waterways that legally require cleanup.

Results of our water testing efforts can be found at