A Better Way to Clean Up Mine Drainage

Concerning "Greening of Appalachia's Strip Mines," (May 21), this is nothing new. Here in Pennsylvania we have more acid mine drainage than any other state, and every kind of industrial waste that is alkaline is touted as the next solution to the problem.

There is usually short-term success in neutralizing the acidity, but the cure results in other problems - water undrinkable due to high levels of heavy metals, selenium, arsenic, and other contaminants. The experiment in Ohio seems to have met with some success, but other similar projects have had problems - the Bark Camp experiment in Clearfield County, Penn., is, by some accounts, a disaster.

All this should be moot, because there is a better way to clean up acid mine drainage - without the problems of introducing industrial wastes into an ecosystem. Passive wetlands treatment uses limestone and microbes in a specially constructed wetlands environment. It removes over 90 percent of the acidity and metal oxides and poses no risk of toxic contamination.

The main impediment to installing passive treatment systems is political and economic: Industries don't get to dump their wastes for free, and politicians beholden to those industries will oppose passive treatment in favor of industrial waste.

Tom DiStefano

Clarion, Penn.

Milosevic's vehicle to power

The article "Embattled Milosevic Opens Another Front" (May 21) on Slobodan Milosevic's latest machinations in Montenegro contains statements that require correction. The Kosovo crisis is interpreted as a threat to Milosevic's authority in Serbia-Montenegro, though it was Milosevic who fomented the crisis in Kosovo in the first place. By stripping Kosovo of its autonomy in 1989 and denying the rights of the 90 percent ethnic-Albanian majority of the province, Milosevic is the driving force behind the desire of Kosovars to separate from Serbia.

Milosevic used Kosovo as a vehicle for his rise to power in the late 1980s, stoking Serbian nationalist feelings that subsequently tore Yugoslavia apart. The latest crackdown by Serbian police and Army units in Kosovo has served to re-ignite these nationalist passions in Serbia. Milosevic is successfully using Kosovo to distract Serbs from their international isolation and economic misery and to discredit domestic opposition to his authoritarian rule. National crisis, especially in Kosovo, is essential to Milosevic's grip on power.

The Clinton administration shares these misperceptions of Milosevic and the Kosovo issue. It, too, would like to believe that Milosevic has an interest in quelling the crisis and that through diplomatic and economic measures, he can be transformed into a kinder, gentler despot. The painful lessons of Bosnia are already forgotten: Slobodan Milosevic will incite nationalism and destabilize the Balkans until the United States musters the leadership required to stop him.

Eric A. Witte

Washington, D.C.

Research analyst, The Balkan Institute

Giving horses the royal treatment?

Thanks for bringing the story of the Tennessee walking horse to our attention in "Animal Abuse? US Bridles Over a Horse's Gait" (May 19). We certainly don't need to hurt these handsome animals in an effort to teach them to step in a manner we think is stylish.

The author quotes a trainer who characterizes the care of these horses as "like they're at the Taj Mahal." Aptness aside, if you look at the figures, spending $32,000 on feeding 42 horses for a year, that's only slightly more than $2 a day. Put that way, it doesn't seem so princely.

Mary Williams

Arlington Va.

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