Seward Coal Dust

Coal dust has been a problem for residents of this beautiful coastal community on the shores of Resurrection Bay ever since the Seward Coal Loading Facility (SCLF) began operations in 1987. Black dust blows off of coal stockpiles and conveyors, seeping into homes, businesses, and schools. Residents inhale it. It also falls onto boats and into the water in the harbor and bay. Residents have tried for years to get the Alaska Railroad Corporation to fix the coal dust problem through containment and best management practices, yet the ARRC has failed to contain its spread. Now two conservation groups have filed suit against the ARRC and Aurora Energy, the operators of the facility, for discharging coal into Resurrection Bay without a permit– a clear violation of the Clean Water Act.

The coal facility was once seen as a welcome source of local jobs, but has since become a constant source of concern. Mismanaged coal dust routinely blows throughout the community and is being dumped into Resurrection Bay from conveyors as it’s being loaded onto cargo ships.

The Alaska Railroad Corporation, which purchased the facility in 2003, is responsible for managing and transporting the coal from Usibelli Coal Mine in Healy to the ships in Seward. They are also responsible for containing the dust, obtaining proper permits and for making sure their operations do not pose a threat to public health and the environment.

Concerns about blowing coal dust have escalated with increased tourism and the resultant boat harbor expansion. Many vessel owners and businesses directly downwind of the coal facility and its immense stockpiles became the unhappy recipients of coal dust that has yet to be properly contained. Residents remain concerned that the dust is polluting the air, affecting public health, blanketing the community, and polluting the bay.

The Railroad’s unwillingness to contain the dust has resulted in Notices of Violation from Alaska’s Department of Environmental Conservation and the recent filing of a lawsuit by the Alaska Chapter of the Sierra Club and Alaska Community Action on Toxics to protect Resurrection Bay from this unnecessary and illegal pollution.