Winds of Change Newsletter, December 2011     See sidebar for table of contents

Sludge Safety ProjectMassey Coal Slurry Pollution Case: Settlement Disclosed

In early August, the Associated Press reported that the settlement in the Rawl Sales lawsuit was $35 million.

Between 1978 and 1987, the Rawl Sales coal prep plant, a subsidiary of Massey Energy, which is now owned by Alpha Natural Resources, pumped about 1.4 billion gallons of prep plant waste polluted fluids into abandoned underground mines near several communities in Mingo County.

After the pumping began, residents’ well water became tainted and many residents became ill. Some began dying from illnesses they blamed on the contaminated water.

Hundreds of people joined in a lawsuit that claimed the toxic slurry made its way into their wells, causing chronic gastrointestinal disorders, assorted cancers, developmental disorders and learning disabilities.

The lawsuit took years to wend its way through court, ending in July with the settlement.

Massey Energy had earlier paid $5 million to finance a medical monitoring fund for many of the residents of Rawl, Lick Creek, Merrimac and Sprigg in Mingo County.

Speaking to the AP in July about the settlement, Rawl resident Donetta Blankenship said, "I want everybody all over the country to find out they don’t have to do that. They can fight and stick together. ... They can fight and win."

Blankenship and many of her neighbors have been active with SSP over the years.


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