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EPA reaches $5 million settlement with Southern Coal

Staff Writer |
The EPA and the DOJ announced a settlement with Southern Coal Corporation and 26 affiliated mining companies.

The settlement requires the companies to make comprehensive upgrades to their coal mining and processing operations to prevent discharges of polluted wastewater from their mines in Appalachia. The estimated cost of these measures is $5 million.

Since beginning an investigation of Southern Coal Corporation in 2011, the EPA has discovered various Clean Water Act (CWA) violations.

These violations include exceedances of CWA National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits for pollutants, such as iron, total suspended solids, aluminum, pH, and manganese, a failure to submit complete and timely discharge monitoring reports (DMRs) and unauthorized discharges.

In addition, Southern Coal Corporation failed to respond to EPA’s CWA 308 information requests.

The injunctive relief, costing approximately $5 million, will consist of:

- preventative measures, including implementation of a company-wide, EPA-approved environmental management system and periodic internal and third-party environmental compliance auditing;

- training for all employees whose responsibilities include environmental compliance and contractors hired to perform duties required by the consent decree;

- data tracking and evaluation measures, including centralized audit and violations databases to track information relevant to compliance efforts at each outfall;

- response measures for effluent limit violations, including consultation with a third-party expert and automatic stipulated penalties.

Southern Coal must also construct a public website, where it will place all publicly available documents, including NPDES permits, DMRs, water sampling data, effluent violation information, Notices of Violations (NOVs), and compliance orders related to the CWA and the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA).

The required injunctive relief supports EPA’s Next Generation Compliance electronic reporting goals.

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