Environmental advocacy groups sue Boone, Nicholas county mines - Business, Government Legal News from throughout WV

Environmental advocacy groups sue Boone, Nicholas county mines

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Two West Virginia coal mines are the target of a recent federal lawsuit that alleges violations of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act and the Clean Water Act.

The Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy and the Sierra Club filed the suit march 20 against Elk Run Coal Company and Alex Energy.

The environmental advocacy groups claim Elk Run's Boone County mine discharged pollutants into Laurel Creek and its tributaries Mudlick Fork and Stolling Fork. The groups claim Alex Energy's Nicholas County mine discharged pollutants into the Robinson Fork watershed.

The suit stated Elk Run measured levels of conductivity and sulfate in surrounding streams that "significantly exceed" pre-mining levels.

"In 2009 and 2010, Elk Run conducted whole effluent toxicity tests in streams in the Laurel Creek watershed that measured acute and chronic toxicity levels that exceed (Environmental Protection Agency) and (West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection) guidelines for the protection of aquatic life," the suit stated.  "High levels of dissolved solids, including sulfates, measured as conductivity, are a primary cause of water quality impairments downstream from mining discharges."

The suit additionally stated the Environmental Protection Agency measured a West Virginia Stream Condition Index score of 58.76 on Laurel Creek. The suit stated the WVDEP designated a score of 68 as the minimum for biological integrity.

The environmental advocacy groups also claim Alex Energy has measured levels of conductivity and sulfate in Robinson Fork. The suit stated the WVDEP classified Robinson Fork in 2008 as "biologically impaired due to ionic stress"

According to the suit, Alex Energy performed three whole effluent toxicity tests in 2009 and 2010 and plaintiffs claim each of those tests measured "chronic toxicity in excess of EPA's guidance criterion for aquatic life protection."

Plaintiffs seek the court to order Elk Run and Alex Energy to comply with effluent limitations and to pay civil penalties up to $37,500 per day for each Clean Water Act violation.

Elk Run and Alex Energy have not yet filed a response.

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