Sierra Club Acts to Stop Selenium Pollution in Kentucky
May 25, 2011
In a historic move, Sierra Club has filed its first ever lawsuit for selenium pollution from a mountain top removal coal mine in the state of Kentucky. This suit comes in response to evidence of continuing illegal water pollution at ICG Hazard’s Thunder Ridge surface mine in Leslie County. The Club is seeking to hold the company accountable for its unpermitted discharges of toxic selenium, and to compel the company to limit the levels of harmful conductivity in its discharges to local waterways.
Coal companies are poisoning Kentucky’s waterways with toxic selenium while the state’s elected officials look the other way. Selenium is regularly found in the coal seams of Appalachia, and is extremely harmful to aquatic life and, at very high levels, poses a threat to human health. Since 2002, numerous selenium hot spots have been found throughout the region. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has also identified selenium pollution as one of the sources of unacceptable environmental damage that prompted its recent historic decision to veto a permit for the Spruce No. 1 Mine in Mingo County, West Virginia. A federal judge in West Virginia recently ordered Patriot Coal to install selenium treatment at one of its surface coal mines at an estimated cost of $45 million.
“While mountain top removal may make a quick buck for ICG, it results in permanent damage to Kentucky’s waterways,” said Lane Boldman, of the Sierra Club’s Cumberland (Kentucky) Chapter. “The long term risk to the environment, to wildlife and to human health is unacceptable and violates the laws intended to protect our communities and our environment.”
Ms. Boldman stated that, “The Sierra Club has no choice but to file suit because the state regulatory cops aren't on the beat, as they're in the back pocket of the coal industry."
The federal government’s Environmental Impact Statement on mountaintop removal cites scientific evidence that illegal selenium water contamination is a common problem downstream of mountaintop removal mines. Over the past several years, other scientific research has strongly demonstrated the harmful and illegal impacts of mountaintop removal on water quality. Recent studies have identified elevated levels of conductivity – a measure of the presence of harmful ions – in streams below mine sites as posing a particular threat to aquatic life.
Sierra Club filed the lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky. ICG Hazard is a subsidiary of the International Coal Group. The Club is represented by Mary Cromer with the Appalachian Citizen’s Law Center, and by Joe Lovett and Ben Luckett with the Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment.
Details and Documents:
Sierra Club Moves to Halt International Coal Group Pollution
May 25, 2011, Sierra Club Press Release
Sierra Club's Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief
May 24, 2011, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky
Enviros keep up pressure against selenium pollution
May 25, 2011 by Manuel Quinones, Greenwire
See other "Stopping Mountaintop Removal and Other Destructive Mining" cases.