HUNTINGTON – Three environmental groups are suing Hobet Mining, which is owned by Patriot Coal, after they claim it is polluting the Mud River watershed.
Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy and Sierra Club have members, including Vivian Stockman, who use, enjoy and benefit from the water quality in the Mud River and its tributaries and the natural resources associated with those streams, according to a complaint filed April 6 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia.
The plaintiffs claim their members would like to recreate in areas downstream from the portion of the streams into which surface mines from the Hobet 21 complex discharge pollutants harmful to aquatic life, including total dissolved solids, conductivity and sulfate.
"Excessive amounts of these pollutants degrade the water quality of the Mud River and its tributaries make the water aesthetically unpleasant and environmentally undesirable and impair and restrict their usage of the Mud River, and its tributaries, and its associated natural resources," the complaint states.
As a result, the environmental, health, aesthetic and recreational interests of members like Stockman are adversely affected by Hobet’s excessive discharges of these and other pollutants into the Mud River, in violations of its West Virginia/National Pollution Elimination System and the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act permits, according to the suit.
The plaintiffs claim since at least March 2010, Hobet has discharged pollutants from operations on the Hobet 21 mine complex through point sources into the Mud River and its tributaries, including Lukey Fork, Ballard Fork, Berry Branch, Sugartree Branch and Stanley Fork.
Hobet's discharges cause ionic stress and biological impairment in the Mud River and its tributaries, according to the suit.
The plaintiffs claim Hobet has also violated the Clean Water Act.
The plaintiffs are seeking the court to enter an order declaring that Hobet has violated the CWA and SMCRA; enjoining Hobet from operating its facilities at the Hobet 21 complex in such a manner as will result in further violations; ordering Hobet to immediately comply with its WV/NPDES permits and SMCRA permits; and order Hobet to conduct monitoring and sampling to determine the environmental effects of its violations, to remedy and repair environmental contamination and/or degradation caused by its violations and restore the environment to its prior uncontaminated condition. They are being represented by Michael Belcher and Joseph M. Lovett of Appalachian Mountain Advocates.
The case is assigned to District Judge Robert C. Chambers.
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia case number: 3:15-cv-04101