Groups Act to Stop Coal Mining Pollution in West Virginia Waterways

Contact:
Sean Sarah, Sierra Club, 330-338-3740, sean.sarah@sierraclub.org

Dianne Bady, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, 304-522-0246, dbady.ovec@gmail.com
Cindy Rank, WV Highlands Conservancy, 304-924-5802, clrank2@gmail.com

Groups Act to Stop Coal Mining Pollution in West Virginia Waterways

Pritchard Mining Company Violating Clean Water Protections

Charleston, WV – Today, environmental and citizen groups in West Virginia filed suit against Pritchard Mining Company for violating Clean Water Act protections at its Fourmile Surface Mine in Boone and Kanawah Counties. Discharges from Pritchard’s Valley Fill No. 3 have raised the level of conductivity – a measure of coal mining pollution – in the streams below its mine beyond the point where that pollution causes harm to stream life. This litigation was brought by the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition and Sierra Club in the US District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia.

“It is now abundantly clear that the valley fills that result from surface coal mining in West Virginia are poisoning our streams,” said Liz Wiles, Chair of the West Virginia Sierra Club. “We also know that the coal companies can’t afford to treat this ongoing pollution. Regulators need to stop approving these mines.”

The basis for today’s suit is a section of the mine’s pollution permit which prohibits dumping into local waters “[m]aterials in concentrations which are harmful, hazardous or toxic to man, animal, or aquatic life,” or that cause “significant adverse impacts to the chemical, physical, hydrologic, or biological components of aquatic ecosystems.” Federal courts have repeatedly ruled that the type of pollution discharged from Pritchard’s mine violates these standards.

“Rather than attempting to change the law to let coal mines off the hook for this pollution, West Virginia legislators and regulators should take the science seriously and act to protect our rivers and streams,” said Dianne Bady with Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition. “It’s time for WVDEP to stop authorizing new valley fills.”

“As more and more coal mine operators go into bankruptcy, we need to think hard about the legacy these mines will leave behind,” said Cindy Rank with West Virginia Highlands Conservancy. “Sadly, this case proves that unless regulators start to act, that legacy will be polluted streams.”

The groups are represented in this matter by Derek Teaney and Mike Becher of Appalachian Mountain Advocates and Jim Hecker of Public Justice.

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