Environmental groups sue DEP secretary for water pollution

By Kyla Asbury | Apr 22, 2016

CLARKSBURG – Three environmental groups are suing the Secretary of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection for violating provisions of the Clean Water Act.

Randy C. Huffman, the secretary of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, has operational responsibility to treat discharges of acid mine drainage at bond forfeiture sites where reclamation of mined areas has not been completed and he holds NPDES permits on five blond forfeiture sites, according to a complaint filed April 20 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia.

West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, West Virginia Rivers Coalition and Sierra Club claim the NPDES permits for each of the sites limits the amount and concentrations of pollutants that the defendant may discharge from its operations into each receiving stream.

The defendant’s wastewater discharges are from a point source or sources into navigable waters of the United States within the meaning of Section 301 of the Clean Water Act, which prohibits the discharge of any pollutant by any person, except in compliance with a permit, according to the suit.

The groups claim each and every discharge in excess of the effluent limitations in the defendant’s NPDES permits is actionable under Section 505(a)(1) of the Clean Water Act and a violation of an average monthly effluent violation is considered to be a violation on each and every day of that month.

“Unless enjoined, the defendant will remain in continuing violation of the CWA,” the complaint states.

The groups claim the defendant is in continuing and/or intermittent violation of the CWA as a result of its violations of effluent limitations in its NPDES permits because the defendant has taken no meaningful action to eradicate the underlying causes of the violations.

The groups are seeking the court enter an order declaring that the defendant has violated and continues to violate the CWA; enjoining the defendant from operating its facilities in such a manner as will result in further violations of the effluent limitations in its NPDES permits; and ordering the defendant to immediately comply with conditions and effluent limitations within its permits. They are being represented by Derek O. Teaney, J. Michael Becher and Joseph M. Lovett of Appalachian Mountain Advocates.

The case is assigned to District Judge Irene Keeley.

U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia case number: 1:16-cv-00070

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