Coalition Acts to Protect Virginia Rivers and Streams from Mining Pollution

For Immediate Release
May 3, 2012

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Tom Cormons, Appalachian Voices, 434-981-6506,
Sean Sarah, Sierra Club, 330 338-3740
Sam Broach, Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, 276-523-1702,
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Coalition Acts to Protect Virginia Rivers and Streams from Mining Pollution
Groups Challenge A&G Coal’s Unpermitted Discharges of Toxic Selenium

Wise County, VA –
Today, a coalition of groups took action to stop A&G Coal Corporation from polluting local waterways.

Water monitoring conducted by the groups shows that A&G’s Kelly Branch Mine in Wise County is dumping the toxic pollutant selenium into streams at levels above state water quality standards, even though the mine’s permit does not allow such pollution. The groups’ lawsuit alleges that these unpermitted discharges violate the Clean Water Act and Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act.

Selenium pollution is a problem for coal mines across Appalachia, but today’s lawsuit represents the first such action to protect rivers and streams in Virginia from this harmful byproduct of mountaintop removal coal mining. The groups bringing today’s lawsuit are the Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, Appalachian Voices, and the Sierra Club.

“The more we learn about mountaintop removal mining, the more we understand how this destructive practice pollutes our rivers, streams and communities,” said Glen Besa, Director of Sierra Club’s Virginia Chapter. “Companies like A&G Coal must be held accountable for cleaning up this pollution, and must bear the true costs of the harm they’re causing.”

Selenium, a toxic element that causes reproductive failure and deformities in fish and other forms of aquatic life, is discharged from many surface coal mining operations across Appalachia. Selenium accumulates in the tissues of aquatic organisms over time, and experts predict that waterways across Appalachia could be on the brink of collapse due to increasing levels of the pollutant.

“It’s a shame that it falls to groups like ours to make sure that companies are complying with the law,” said Sam Broach, President of Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards. “Why aren’t state regulators like the DMME stepping up to protect our communities from this pollution?”

“The people, land and water of Appalachia have been forced to pay the externalized costs of mountaintop removal for far too long, with local communities suffering life-threatening health problems and a damaged ecosystem,” said Tom Cormons, Virginia Director for Appalachian Voices. “Appalachian communities should not be forced to subsidize wealthy coal corporations that are violating the law.”

Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, Appalachian Voices, and the Sierra Club are represented in this matter by Isak Howell and Joe Lovett of Appalachian Mountain Advocates.