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EPA announced in the May 27 Federal Register two final scientific reports assessing the environmental and water quality effects of mountaintop coal mining on Appalachian streams. Both reports - The Effects of Mountaintop Mines and Valley Fills on Aquatic Ecosystems of the Central Appalachian Coalfields (EPA/600/R-09/138F) and A Field-based Aquatic Life Benchmark for Conductivity in Central Appalachian Streams (EPA/600/R-10/023F) - were prepared by EPA scientists in the Agency's Office of Research and Development, were strongly endorsed by EPA's Science Advisory Board following an extensive independent peer review. The reports provide valuable scientific information for use by Federal and state agencies responsible for the review of surface coal mining operations under the Clean Water Act. EPA said its key conclusions include findings that dissolved mineral ions in a stream—as measured by elevated conductivity—are directly responsible for loss of aquatic life below mine sites; that degraded downstream water quality reaches acutely lethal levels for test organisms; that selenium concentrations reach toxic levels for fish and birds; that some streams are permanently lost; and that aquatic life downstream is consistently degraded