MACE, W.Va. — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will accept public comments until April 5th on a proposal to build a new National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Underground Mine Safety Research Facility in Randolph County and Pocahontas County.

The site being considered for programs focused on miner health and safety issues includes more than 461 acres in both counties located off Route 219 near Mace.

After first being proposed last year, a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the potential location is now available.

Areas analyzed in the draft report included noise and vibration, geology topography and soils, water resources, utilities and infrastructure and biological resources including vegetation and threatened and endangered species.

Autumn Crowe, staff scientist for the West Virginia Rivers Coalition, has reviewed the report and told MetroNews she found it lacking in many key areas.

“Our main concern is the impact on the karst (topography) in the area and the impacts on people’s drinking water supplies and without more information we can’t fully assess those impacts,” Crowe said.

Karst is characterized by limestone with fissures, sinkholes and other features.

Crowe said many residents in the site area rely on springs and wells for drinking water.

“If the blasting fractured some of the rocks where the aquifers occur then people’s wells could go dry. If the blasting would impact the groundwater flow, some springs could be impacted,” she said.

Additionally, she said the draft EIS surveyed only 44 acres of the larger site. The exact location of those acres was not clear.

“They may have only surveyed the area where the construction would occur, but if they’re blasting and digging underground, they need to do a more thorough study,” said Crowe.

A final Environmental Impact Statement could be completed later this year.

Before that, “We need to see more information to understand the impacts of this proposed facility,” Crowe said.

Crowe was planning to attend a Wednesday evening open house on the proposed project from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Linwood Community Library, 72 Snowshoe Drive.

Attendees were supposed to have the opportunity to submit their comments at the meeting.

As envisioned, the Mace site would replace the former Lake Lynn Experimental Mine in Fayette County, Pennsylvania as a location for full-scale mine experiments and research in a simulated mine.

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