Foresight Energy unit settles groundwater complaint by Illinois Attorney General

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan on Sept. 14 filed a consent order to resolve groundwater contamination issues at the Shay No. 1 Coal Mine, which is a Foresight Energy LP operation in Macoupin County.

The consent order entered by the court in Macoupin County will resolve groundwater quality violations at Shay Mine, which is owned by Macoupin Energy LLC. Under the terms of the consent order, the company is required to prevent the spread of mining waste contaminants from two refuse disposal areas into groundwater.

The company is also required to submit a corrective action plan to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA), Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and the U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement. The plan must detail how the company will prevent the spread of mining waste, and ensure the safe disposal and treatment of future waste.

The major components of the corrective action plan include:

  • the design and installation of groundwater collection trenches along the perimeter of the two refuse disposal areas through which contaminated groundwater will be collected, circulated to the mine’s wastewater treatment system and discharged in compliance with an IEPA permit;
  • the installation of wick drains into the disposal areas to promote the removal of contaminated water so that it can be treated before being discharged in compliance with an IEPA permit; and
  • the use of coal-combustion byproduct (CCB) in accordance with Illinois law as an additional fill material for the disposal areas. Using CCB will help reduce the potential for contamination to spread from the disposal areas into groundwater.

“This consent decree will require Macoupin Energy to address the contamination issues that jeopardized the public’s water supply,” Madigan said in a Sept. 14 statement. “This agreement will support ongoing cleanup efforts and help prevent future contamination.”

The Shay Mine was owned by ExxonMobil until 2009, when Macoupin Energy took over and began to address groundwater contamination issues. The IEPA referred the case to the Attorney General’s office in 2013 for ongoing violations of state groundwater quality standards.

Said Foresight Energy about this operation in its March 11 annual Form 10-K report: “Our Macoupin mine is wholly-owned by our subsidiary Macoupin Energy LLC (‘Macoupin’), and is located in central Illinois near the town of Carlinville. We acquired the Macoupin mine from ExxonMobil Coal USA, Inc. (‘Exxon’) in 2009. Following the acquisition from Exxon, Macoupin sealed the majority of the previously mined area and implemented a new mine plan and design. In addition, the surface facilities were upgraded, including the rehabilitation of the preparation plant. Coal production began in 2009 with a single continuous miner super-section utilizing battery powered coal haulers. An additional continuous miner unit was added in 2011 using a flexible conveyor train system rather than coal haulers.

“Coal is washed at Macoupin’s 850 tph preparation plant, stockpiled and then shipped by rail or truck to market. Macoupin has direct access to both the [Union Pacific] and [Norfolk Southern] railroads and indirect access to the [Canadian National] railroad, which allows for the delivery of its coal directly to customers or to the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to serve the domestic thermal market or the international market through New Orleans.”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.