Mussel biologist Steve Ahlstedt shows off coal fines, the sediments from Virginia’s coal mines that wash into the rivers of Tennessee. It is thought that coal fines and the use of heavy industrial chemicals to clean coal in Viriginia are both major factors in the disappearance of rare Mussels in the Clinch and Powell Rivers, two of the last places where many rare mussels were found.
Federally listed endangered freshwater mussels taken from the Clinch River near Sneedville. Shown is a finerayed pigtoe (Fusconaia cuneolus).The Clinch River has more federally listed aquatic species than any river in North America, yet is threatened by pollution and habitat loss. Coal mining in the watershed now raises the threat even more.