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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Enviros Sue Mining Co. Over Alabama River Pollution

Enviros Sue Mining Co. Over Alabama River Pollution

Law360, New York (September 13, 2011, 10:15 PM ET) -- Two Alabama environmental groups on Tuesday sued a coal mining company for allegedly polluting the state's Hurricane Creek and Black Warrior River by regularly violating the Clean Water Act's New Source Performance Standards.

According to the complaint, brought by the nonprofits Friends of Hurricane Creek and Black Warrior Riverkeeper, coal mining company Black Warrior Minerals Inc. has committed more than 1,200 violations of the CWA's standards over the past five years in the operation of its Fleetwood Mine in Tuscaloosa County.

The pollutants from the mine have been infiltrating several areas of the creek, which is located in western Alabama and is a tributary of the Black Warrior River, according to the complaint.

“Fleetwood Mine's numerous violations of the Clean Water Act at Hurricane Creek and its tributaries are unacceptable," Black Warrior Riverkeeper representative Nelson Brooke said in a joint statement released by the two groups. "Orange, polluted water flowing from this strip mine is an unwelcome sight along this beautiful stretch of Hurricane Creek. Coal mines like this one should not be allowed to operate if they cannot meet applicable effluent standards."

According to the complaint, acid or ferruginous mine drainage resulting from coal mining is subject to the CWA's standards.

Black Warrior Minerals regularly exceeded the legal amounts of manganese and iron that are allowed to be discharged from a mining operation of Fleetwood's capacity, the groups contend.

The groups add that the creek and river are interdependent in terms of chemical, physical and biological integrity, and therefore are both harmed by the alleged pollutants.

"Coal mining has been a serious problem in Hurricane Creek for many generations, causing it to be placed on the EPA's impaired streams list," said Friends of Hurricane Creek representative John Wathen in the statement. "Black Warrior Minerals has not only failed to reduce those pollutants but has exceeded effluent standards repeatedly and should be held accountable. The state has failed to do so."

The two groups are asking the court to enjoin Black Warrior Minerals from continuing to operate its mine in violation of the CWA's standards and to impose fines between $32,500 and $37,500 for each CWA violation.

Black Warrior Minerals could not be immediately reached for comment Tuesday.

The groups are represented by Black Warrior Riverkeeper staff attorney Eva Dillard and David Ludder of The Law Offices of David A. Ludder PLLC.

Counsel information for Black Warrior Minerals was not immediately available.

The case is Black Warrior Riverkeeper Inc. et al. v. Black Warrior Minerals, Inc., case number 7:11-cv-03307, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama.

--Editing by Kat Laskowski.

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