Sunday, September 24, 2023
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West Va. Coal Company Accused of Polluting

(CN) - The Shepard Boone Coal Co. is polluting federal waters near Boone County, West, Va. with selenium runoff from its coal mines, a coalition of Ohio Valley environmentalists claim in Federal Court.

In a complaint filed last week, the Ohio Valley Environmental says the discharge of the toxic pollutant is coming from Shepard Boone's 1,281-acre Colony Bay Surface mine in violation of the Clean Water Act.

The coalition, which is joined as plaintiff by the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, and the Sierra Club, contends the runoff is highly toxic and poses a threat to both people living near the impacted waters and wildlife in the region.

The Huntington, West Va.-based Shepard Boone has constructed of at least two valley fills, including valley fill 5, which drains into Beaver Pond Branch of Pond Fork of the Coal River. WVDEP has recognized that Beaver Pond Branch is impaired due to selenium.

Valley fills, like valley fill 5, are the result of the expansion of rock that occurs during mountain top removal coal mining. The excess soil and rock are put in nearby valleys, covering streams and forming valley fills, which lead to several environmental issues, including collecting runoff surface and groundwater, the plaintiffs say.

They note that valley fill 5 was designed with an underground and center drain which conveys water to the stream channel located at the base of the fill. But as operated by the defendant, they say, highly polluting discharges from the site flowed into Beaver Pond Branch, where it subsequently flowed into the Coal River.

As a result, the plaintiffs say, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection has recognized that the Beaver Pond Branch is impaired by selenium and has gone so far as to develop a TMDL for the watershed. A TMDL, or Total Maximum Daily Load, is a calculation of the maximum amount of a pollutant that a body of water can receive and still meet mandated water quality standards.

The environmentalists seek injunctive relief barring Shepard Boone from future unpermitted discharges, the imposition of civil penalties of up to $37,500 per day, and an order mandating monitoring of the company's operations and their environmental impacts.

The plaintiffs are represented by J. Michael Becher of Appalachian Mountain Advocates in Lewisburg, West Va.

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