Arch Coal, the second biggest coal supplier in the U.S., has agreed to pay $4 million to settle Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) allegations that it violated the Clean Water Act in Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky.
Under the settlement, Arch Coal will also make changes to its mining operations in those states to ensure compliance with the act.
The joint complaint filed by the federal, West Virginia and Kentucky governments alleged numerous violations of Arch Coal’s permits that set limits on discharge of pollutants into streams. Allegations included excess discharges of iron, total suspended solids and manganese.
Filed in the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of West Virginia, the case alleged deficiencies in operation and maintenance of wastewater treatment systems at four Arch Coal facilities: Coal Mac, Lone Mountain Processing, Cumberland River Coal and Mingo Logan Coal.
Under the settlement, the federal government will receive $2 million, and the remaining $2 million will be divided between West Virginia and Kentucky, based on the percentage of alleged violations in each state.
in January the EPA revoked a water permit for Arch Coal’s Spruce No. 1 mine in West Virginia, saying it would pollute water, harm wildlife and Appalachian communities in West Virginia.A bipartisan group of Congressmen then filed a bill to prevent the EPA from retroactively vetoing permits as it did with Spruce No. 1.
Measures agreed as part of yesterday’s settlement will prevent about 2 million pounds of pollution from entering the country’s waters each year, the EPA said.
Arch Coal has agreed to implement a series of inspections, audits and tracking measures to ensure treatment systems are working properly and that future compliance is achieved. The company is also required to develop and implement a compliance management system to help foster a top-down, compliance and prevention-focused approach to Clean Water Act issues.
In addition, Arch will also institute a treatment system to reduce discharges of selenium. Selenium runoff from mining operations can build up in streams and have an adverse impact on aquatic organisms, the EPA said.
“Violations at mining operations can have significant environmental and public health consequences, including the pollution of the waters that people use for drinking, swimming and fishing,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “It is critical that companies operating next door to homes, schools and other businesses meet the standards established to protect the health and the environment for these communities.”
“These changes will mean a healthier environment for local communities and will help ensure Arch Coal’s compliance with the Clean Water Act,” said Ignacia. S. Moreno, assistant attorney general of the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice.
The consent decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.
Last month the West Virginia Division of Environmental Protection (DEP) presented Arch Coal subsidiary Coal-Mac with the Greenlands Award for overall outstanding environmental performance and achievement in reclamation.