Arch Coal to pay $4 million to settle pollution claims

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), March 1, 2011
Posted on: http://envfpn.advisen.com

Arch Coal Inc., the nation’s second-largest coal producer, will pay a $4 million penalty to settle claims that it violated federal water-quality standards in three eastern states.

The agreement was announced Tuesday morning by the Department of Justice and Environmental Protection Agency.

Under the settlement, Creve Coeur-based Arch also agreed to make changes to mining operations in Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky that will prevent an estimated 2 million pounds of pollution from entering waterways each year, the Justice Department said.

Arch said it reported more half a million water-quality parameters to federal and state regulators from 2003 to 2010, the period covered by the settlement, and its operations were compliant with standards 99.9 percent of the time.

“While the company fulfilled its legal obligation under the Clean Water Act to sample and report water quality from its discharge points, the fines reflect those rare instances when water quality parameters were exceeded,” Paul A. Lang, Arch’s senior vice president of operations, said in a statement. “We regret these exceedances and have taken aggressive steps to ensure that they will not be repeated in the future.”

A joint federal-state complaint was filed against Arch in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of West Virginia that allege numerous violations of the mining company’s permits, which set limits on pollutants that are discharged into streams.

The lawsuit says Arch released excess amounts of iron, manganese and other pollutants that “reflect deficiencies in operation and maintenance of wastewater treatment systems” at four mining operations.

The settlement calls for Arch to install a treatment system to reduce selenium runoff from mines that can harm aquatic organisms. Arch also agreed to a series of inspections, audits and other tracking measures at the mines to ensure compliance, the Justice Department said.

Half of the $4 million penalty will be paid to the United States. The rest will be divided between West Virginia and Kentucky. The settlement is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval.

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