Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Two Waterkeeper Groups Sue Black Warrior Minerals’ Fleetwood Mine in Tuscaloosa


Two Waterkeeper Groups Sue Black Warrior Minerals’ Fleetwood Mine in Tuscaloosa
Black Warrior Minerals discharge into Hurricane Creek

Tuscaloosa – Nonprofit Waterkeeper organizations Black Warrior Riverkeeper and the Friends of Hurricane Creek filed a lawsuit today against Black Warrior Minerals, Inc. in United States District Court.  The lawsuit alleges that pollution from Black Warrior Minerals’ Fleetwood Mine in Tuscaloosa County is polluting Hurricane Creek, a tributary of the Black Warrior River. 


According to John Wathen, Hurricane Creekkeeper for the Friends of Hurricane Creek, “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. The Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) assessment calls for reductions in heavy metals discharges. Black Warrior Minerals has not only failed to reduce those pollutants but has exceeded permit limits, effluent standards and the TMDL repeatedly and should be held accountable. The state has failed to do so. With no recourse left, we have joined forces with Black Warrior Riverkeeper to step in to enforce the laws." Wathen is also the Chair for the Citizens Coal Council


Nelson Brooke, staff Riverkeeper at Black Warrior Riverkeeper, added, “Fleetwood Mine's numerous violations of its wastewater discharge permit into Hurricane Creek and its tributaries are unacceptable.  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 weak permit limits.”

Black Warrior Minerals is in violation of the Clean Water Act (CWA), which prohibits their Fleetwood Mine from discharging pollutants to waters of the United States except in compliance with applicable New Source Performance Standards (“NSPS”) for coal mining and any permit issued pursuant to the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (“NPDES”).  In their complaint, the two Waterkeeper Alliance member groups catalogued over 1,300 NSPS violations at the Fleetwood Mine over the past five years.  The mine has violated standards for iron, manganese, total suspended solids and pH.

Black Warrior Riverkepeer and the Friends of Hurricane Creek are asking the Court to enjoin Black Warrior Minerals from discharging pollutants from Fleetwood Mine in violation of the CWA and to assess appropriate penalties for the violations alleged.  Most citizen suits require a sixty day waiting period before suit can be filed.  However, in this situation, David Ludder, counsel for Friends of Hurricane Creek explains, “Congress authorizes immediate citizen suits to enforce NSPS rather than allowing those violations to continue.”

Eva Dillard, Black Warrior Riverkeeper’s Staff Attorney, added, “We expect the coal mines that operate in the Black Warrior River watershed to follow the law and comply with all regulatory standards and permits.  When they fail to do so, we are willing to take action to ensure that the law is properly applied and enforced.”

Nelson Brooke’s July 7, 2011 photo of Fleetwood Mine’s orange discharge polluting Hurricane Creek: 


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