Second group files suit against Emerald Mine for wastewater discharges
The coal preparation plant and coal yard at the Emerald Mine in Waynesburg
A second environmental group has filed a citizens lawsuit against Alpha Natural Resources and its subsidiary, Emerald Coal Resources, for alleged Clean Water Act violations at the company’s Emerald Mine in Waynesburg.
Citizens Coal Council, a national alliance of groups that advocates for enforcing and strengthening environmental laws related to coal, filed the suit Wednesday with the U.S. District Court in Pittsburgh. The suit came two days after a local organization, Citizens for Coalfield Justice, filed a separate federal lawsuit against the company on similar grounds.
The council’s lawsuit is based on the findings of a study completed for the council in 2010 by the consulting firm Schmid and Co., said Aimee Erickson, the council’s executive director.
The lawsuit cites thousands of instances in which the mine exceeded its permit limits in wastewater discharges for aluminum, iron, manganese, osmotic pressure and total suspended solids between 2008 and 2012. The allegations are based on information the company provided regulatory agencies as part of its required wastewater discharge monitoring program.
The streams affected by the discharges include Smith Creek and its tributaries, South Fork Ten Mile Creek, Browns Creek, Frosty Run, Grimes Run and unnamed tributaries of Laurel Run, Coal Lick Run, and Dyers Fork.
“Emerald Resources has failed to comply with their water pollution permit for many years. It’s past time for this company and its parent, Alpha, to ensure that their discharges are not degrading the creeks of Greene County,” Erickson said.
The council provided Schmid’s study to the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Environmental Protection in 2010 and gave a presentation on the study to EPA officials in November of that year, Erickson said.
“We’ve waited patiently for them to do something but haven’t been really happy with their silence,” she said. EPA representatives have told the council they are working with the company, but have said little more, Erickson said.
DEP also has failed to act, she said, “and that is why we are taking these steps under the citizen enforcement provisions of the Clean Water Act.” The act gives citizens the right to file a citizens lawsuit when they believe regulatory bodies have not sufficiently addressed a violation.
DEP spokesman John Poister said Friday he could not comment on the lawsuit but he did say the department has been working with the company on a “global process” that also involves its other subsidiary, Cumberland Coal Resources, to address water quality problems.
Samantha Davison, a company spokeswoman, also said the company has been working with both DEP and EPA to address the issue, but it has taken time. Plans to address the issue have involved pilot testing various technologies to find a solution that will work on a permanent basis, she said.
The company’s employees not only work but also live in the community, Davison said. “We realize we have to be good neighbors as well as good environmental stewards,” she said.