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U.S. Charges Massey Subsidiaries with Clean Water Act Misdemeanors

Release Date: 8/30/2002
Contact Information: Bonnie Smith (215) 814-5543

Bonnie Smith (215) 814-5543

CHARLESTON, W. Va. – The United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia filed two misdemeanor charges today against two subsidiaries of A.T. Massey Coal Co., Inc. with negligently violating the Clean Water Act last year in Boone County.

The subsidiaries – Independence Coal Company, Inc. and Omar Mining Company, Inc. – own and operate coal mines and preparation plants near Uneeda. Both companies had the required Clean Water Act permits from the State of West Virginia to discharge treated waste water into Robinson Creek, a tributary of the Little Coal River.

The charge, contained in the Information involving Independence, alleges that a leak in a pump in the coal preparation plant on or about June 18, 2001, resulted in the eventual discharge of waste water containing elevated levels of solids into Robinson Creek in violation of the company’s permit limit.

An Information is a formal accusation by a government attorney that the defendant committed a misdemeanor.

The Information involving Omar alleges that the company began pumping waste water out of an inactive underground mine on August 12, 2001, after the water level had risen above permitted levels. Between August 12 and August 22, the company decided to use a stormwater control pond, previously used to remove metals (including manganese) from waste water, as part of the pumping and discharge process of the mine water. On August 22, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) sampled wastewater discharging from the pond into Robinson Creek and found that it contained elevated levels of solids and manganese in violation of the limits contained in the company’s permit.

The Clean Water Act prohibits the discharge of pollutants into U.S. waters except in accordance with a permit. Negligent violation of a CWA permit is a misdemeanor offense. The maximum sentence for each defendant is a fine of $200,000 and probation up to five years.

This case was investigated by the Criminal Investigation Division of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, with technical assistance provided by the WVDEP. EPA Region III Office of Regional Counsel provided legal assistance.