Coal miner Consol to pay EPA $5.5 mn for pollution

Source: The Economic Times, March 15, 2011

Coal miner Consol Energy agreed to pay the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency $5.5 million in civil penalties for Clean Water Act violations at six of its mines in West Virginia, the Department of Justice said on Monday.

Consol will also spend an estimated $200 million in pollution controls to reduce discharges of harmful mining wastewater into Appalachian streams and rivers, the DOJ said.

The Pittsburgh-based mining company said in a separate release its agreement with the DOJ, the EPA and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) would set the highest standard for mine water treatment.

Consol said it agreed to pay the EPA $5.5 million, without admitting any liability. The amount was previously recognized in the company’s financial statements and will have no impact on 2011 earnings.

Consol said it was also resolving alleged natural resource damages claims in a cash settlement of $500,000 with the WVDEP. “This agreement will not only avoid pointless litigation, but will also provide resources to the state to enable them to further address stream degradation issues such as poor stream habitat and poorly managed sewage discharges along the creek,” the company said.

The case related to a 2009 outbreak of algae that killed fish and other aquatic life in Dunkard Creek, a tributary of the Monongahela River. At the time, Consol took voluntary action to temporarily stop permitted discharges of water from its mines to the creek.

The U.S. complaint, filed concurrently with the settlement agreement, alleges that six Consol mines violated pollution discharge limits in their Clean Water Act permits hundreds of times over the last four years.

The complaint alleges chloride discharge exceeded limits at the Blacksville No. 2, Loveridge, Robinson Run and Four States mines in the Monongahela watershed and the Shoemaker and Windsor mines discharging into tributaries of the Ohio River.

The complaint also alleges that discharges of high amounts of chloride and total dissolved solids from Consol’s facilities at Blacksville No. 2 and Loveridge contributed to severe impairment of aquatic life and conditions favorable for golden algae to thrive in Dunkard Creek.

In September 2009, a species of golden algae bloomed in Dunkard Creek, killing thousands of fish, mussels and amphibians.

Consol has agreed to invest $200 million to build and operate an advanced wastewater treatment plant near Mannington, West Virginia, to remove high levels of chloride from mine wastewater.

The plant will be the largest such treatment plant in Appalachia, capable of treating 3,500 gallons of water per minute, substantially reducing chloride and other salts in mining waters discharged to streams.

Consol stock rose 3 percent to $50.08 in Monday afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

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