Feb 04, 2009

West Virginia Residents Sue Coal Companies For Well Contamination

Lawsuit alleges mine waste poisoned wells

A group of 250 West Virginia residents are suing eight coal companies they claim poisoned their wells by pumping mine wastes into former underground mines, the Associated Press and Greenwire reported.

The lawsuit alleges that decades of mining activities near the communities of Prenter and Seth fractured the geologic strata that had contained the slurry, a byproduct of cleaning coal. The fractured strata resulted in a network of cracks, which created a route for the slurry to contaminate the aquifer, the lawsuit claims.

The plaintiffs' environmental consultant said "a very toxic and pungent" hydrogen sulfide gas was found in every home, while every water sample had apparent odor and discoloration. Testing exposed varying levels of arsenic, lead, iron, manganese and sulfides, the consultant's report states.

"We studied specifically the possibility the slurry injection had migrated into the water, and there's not a geologic connection between where it was stored and where their problem is," state Department of Environmental Protection Director Randy Huffman said. "The injection site in Prenter is not the source of their problems."