Groups threaten to sue Drummond over runoff from shut Alabama coal mine

Conservation groups filed a notice of intent to sue June 29 against Drummond Co. for alleged violations at its Maxine Mine site, an abandoned underground coal mine located on the banks of the Locust Fork of the Black Warrior River near Praco, Alabama.

The Southern Environmental Law Center said in a June 29 statement that though mining at Maxine ceased in the 1980s, acid mine drainage has been illegally discharging from the site into the Locust Fork through surface water runoff and seeps from the underground mine.

The Southern Environmental Law Center, Black Warrior Riverkeeper and Public Justice filed the notice letter regarding continuous and unpermitted polluted discharges of acidic runoff and mine drainage into the Locust Fork and its tributaries. The site also presents a substantial imminent harm to human health and the environment due to the storage of tons of mining waste known as geologic overburden, or “GOB,” on a bluff above the Locust Fork, they said. Besides being a continuous source of acid mine drainage, the GOB has completely filled a tributary of the Locust Fork, they said.

“Leaving this site without cleaning up piles of mining waste and polluted sediment, and without taking appropriate measures to stop the flow of acid mine drainage from the basins and ditches left behind is simply unacceptable,” said Barry Brock, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “Until the ongoing pollution at the Maxine Mine site is adequately addressed, it continues to pose a threat to water quality, and the communities and wildlife in the area that depend on clean water.”

The groups said the Maxine Mine site is one of the worst of hundreds of abandoned mines in the Black Warrior basin, many of which continue to degrade streams and contaminate groundwater with unpermitted discharges containing high levels of sediment, heavy metals such as iron and aluminum, and other pollutants. To address the ongoing pollution and storage of coal mine waste on the Locust Fork, the groups are seeking removal of the mining waste, excavation and/or remediation of contaminated streams, and any other appropriate measures by Drummond to immediately stop all illegal discharges at the site.

As outlined in the notice letter, the groups’ claims include violations of the Clean Water Act through illegal, ongoing discharges of pollutants into the Locust Fork and its tributaries, and illegal stream filling; and violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act for improper management of solid wastes.

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.