Energy Firm Hit with Pollution Penalty

Wednesday, March 16, 2011 @ 09:03 PM gHale


Coal and natural gas producer Consol Energy will pay a $5.5-million civil penalty over Clean Water Act violations at six mines in West Virginia, and will spend another $200-million on pollution controls to reduce harmful discharges into streams and rivers.

In a statement the company would not admit any liability and said they recognized the penalty in its financial statements and will have no impact on 2011 earnings.

The agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection relates to an algae bloom in 2009 that killed large quantities of fish and other aquatic life in a tributary of the Monongahela River.

A complaint said discharges of high amounts of chloride and dissolved solids from Consol’s Blacksville number 2 and Loveridge operations resulted in the “severe impairment” of aquatic life and created conditions for golden algae to thrive in the creek.

The complaint also said six Consol mines violated pollution discharge limits in the Clean Water Act permits “hundreds of times” over the last four years.

Consol maintains its operations were not the cause of the algae bloom in Dunkard Creek, and said it took voluntary action to temporarily stop permitted discharges of water from its mines to the creek.

Under the settlement agreement, the company designed a multi-phase management program for discharges from its mines to collect the water and remove chlorides and other salts from permitted discharge water.

The new system should be fully operational by May 2013, Consol said.

“The centerpiece of this settlement – a new advanced wastewater treatment plant – will substantially reduce pollution by keeping nearly 100-million pounds of total dissolved solids, including chloride, from reaching these waterways each year,” said EPA regional administrator Shawn M. Garvin.



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