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Release Date: 9/6/2000
Contact Information: David Sternberg, (215) 814-5548

David Sternberg, 215-814-5548

PHILADELPHIA – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced that it has settled Clean Water Act complaints against two West Virginia coal companies for unlawful discharges of blackwater, a mixture of fine coal dust and water.

In separate settlements, Elk Run Coal Co. of Sylvester, Boone County, W.Va., has agreed to pay a $16,000 civil penalty, and Goals Coal Co. of Naoma, Raleigh County, W.Va. will pay $9,900.

EPA’s complaints cited the companies for discharging blackwater into tributaries of the Kanawha River. West Virginia Division of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) investigated these discharges and later worked with EPA to develop these cases.

“EPA shares West Virginians’ concern about coal mine runoff choking rivers and streams with high concentrations of solids and minerals. We will continue to work with the state to control this threat to West Virginia’s waterways,” said EPA Regional Administrator Bradley Campbell.

Elk Run Coal Co. owns a coal processing plant, deep mine, refuse area, and ash disposal site in Sylvester, W.Va. The company was cited for violations that occurred on February 12, 1999, when a damaged culvert pipe allegedly discharged some 1,500 gallons of blackwater into Little Elk Creek, and on March 3, 1999, when a blackwater discharge discolored some 2,200 feet of the creek.

Goals Coal Co. owns a coal mine, refuse disposal area, and coal preparation plant in Naoma, W.Va. EPA alleges that company unlawfully discharged blackwater into the Big Coal River on February 23, 1999. This discharge was reportedly caused by an overflow of coal refuse slurry from the facility’s coal washing operation.

WVDEP issued Clean Water Act permits to each of these companies, limiting pollutant discharges, including releases of blackwater, into nearby waterways. The permit limits are designed to protect the quality and recreational uses of these waterways. Each of the permits prohibit the discharge of blackwater which causes distinctly visible floating or settleable solids, suspended solids, or a distinctly visible color in the waterway.

As part of the settlement, these companies neither admitted nor denied liability for the alleged violations.