Groups Secure Agreement from Arch Coal to Treat Selenium Pollution from Coal Mines
September 29, 2011
On September 29, a coalition of conservation and environmental groups finalized an agreement that will protect Appalachian communities from toxic selenium pollution. The settlement, negotiated by Sierra Club, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, and Coal River Mountain Watch, requires Arch Coal and its subsidiaries to clean up toxic run off from six surface coal mines in West Virginia. The coalition originally filed a lawsuit against Arch Coal in June 2010, alleging selenium discharge violations at the mine locations.
“This settlement holds Arch Coal responsible for the damage done to West Virginia waterways and requires them to make it right,” said Jim Sconyers, Chair of the West Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club. “This settlement reflects another step in our fight to ensure that coal companies act responsibly in regards to the health of surrounding communities and West Virginia’s wild lands.” The settlement requires Arch Coal to immediately begin installing treatment technology to bring selenium discharges within acceptable levels. The settlement also requires Arch Coal to pay a total of $2 million up front, with $1.8 million directed to support sustainable development and land use planning in West Virginia, and the remaining $200,000 to the US Treasury. Further, it requires strict monitoring of selenium treatment at the six sites into the future. If the mines continue to discharge selenium above permit limits, Arch Coal will have to pay up to $25,000 for each new violation.
Selenium, a toxic element that causes reproductive failure and deformities in fish and other aquatic life, is discharged from many surface coal-mining operations across Appalachia. At very high levels, selenium can pose a risk to human health, causing hair and fingernail loss, kidney and liver damage, and damage to the nervous and circulatory systems. This latest action follows several recent lawsuits filed by the groups against other mine operators, including Massey Energy and Patriot Coal, that seek to hold those companies accountable for their selenium discharge violations. Last year, a federal judge in West Virginia ordered Patriot to install technology at two of its mines to treat selenium pollution at an estimated cost of $45 million.
The coalition was represented by Joe Lovett and Derek Teaney with Appalachian Mountain Advocates.
Details and Documents:
Arch agrees to pay $2M to settle pollution lawsuit
October 3, 2011 by Vicki Smith, Associated Press
Arch Coal to pay $2 million to clean up mine pollution
October 3, 2011 by Kelsey Volkmann, St. Louis Business Journal
Details of Arch Coal selenium deal outlined
October 3, 2011 by Ken Ward Jr., Coal Tattoo
Arch Coal to pay $2 million to settle pollution claims
October 3, 2011 by Jeffrey Tomich, St. Louis Today
Arch Coal reaches $2 million settlement over West Virginia discharges
October 3, 2011, Platts
See other "Stopping Mountaintop Removal and Other Destructive Mining" cases.