The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia ruled Tuesday conductivity pollution from Fola Coal’s Monoc No. 2 Surface Mine violated key state and federal water quality protections.
The mine, located in Nicholas and Clay counties, dumps mine waste into valley fills located in tributaries to Leatherwood Creek.
According to a release from the Sierra Club, an environmental organization, the ionic pollutants at issue – measured through the electrical conductivity of water samples – are discharged by virtually every mine in Appalachia that utilizes valley fills. The pollutants are harmful to aquatic life in streams, and can serve as an indicator of other possible pollution problems.
The court’s decision, which followed a two-day trial and extensive briefing, rejected the defense’s arguments and expert opinions from the mining industry. Next, the court will hold a trial to determine the remedy to this situation.
“This is a major victory for families in West Virginia and the waters that they rely on to be safe and healthy for their children and communities,” said Jim Kotcon, Chapter Chair for the West Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club.
“This is also a reminder to coal companies that they cannot expect to pollute with impunity — we will continue to fight for our health, waters, lands, and wallets. Now, we hope to see the Court hold Fola Coal accountable for cleaning up the mess they’ve made because West Virginia taxpayers will not be left with the bill and the burden of repairing the environmental degradation left behind by coal mining.”
Jim Hecker, Environmental Enforcement Director at Public Justice, said this court decision marks the first to use “West Virginia’s newer, more accurate, and peer-reviewed method of measuring biological impairment in streams.”
“Unfortunately, West Virginia has refused to apply that method to mine pollution, forcing citizens to bring court actions like this one to enforce the law.”
The action was brought against Fola Coal by Sierra Club, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, Public Justice and West Virginia Rivers Coalition. The groups were represented by attorneys with Appalachian Mountain Advocates.
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