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Consol deal to help clean up 'straight pipe' pollution

Read the settlement at our Coal Tattoo blog.

 CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Consol Energy subsidiary will spend $1.2 million to create a water pollution and land protection legal clinic at West Virginia University as part of a deal to resolve a lawsuit over water quality violations, officials said Thursday.

The new clinic at the WVU College of Law will provide legal assistance to the Fayette County community to work on water protection and restoration projects and to deal with "straight pipe" sewage pollution issues.

Consol's Powellton Coal subsidiary also will pay $134,000 in civil penalties and put in place a plan to clean up excess aluminum discharges from its Bridge Fork mountaintop removal complex on Gauley Mountain.

The proposed settlement still needs approval from U.S. District Judge John T. Copenhaver Jr. and from the U.S. Department of Justice.

"This is a great victory, not only for the streams that we depend on, but also for the Gauley River National Recreation Area and the New River National River, which are the engines of Fayette County's tourism economy," said Beverly Walkup, secretary of the Ansted Historic Preservation Council.

The Ansted group and the Sierra Club sued Powellton in November 2008 over nearly 6,800 violations of Clean Water Act permit limits at the Bridge Fork Surface Mine, Sugarcamp Loadout and Rich Creek Haulroad. The groups were represented by Derek Teaney of the Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment and Jim Hecker of Public Justice.

This February, Copenhaver ruled that a separate water pollution settlement with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection did not insulate the company from a citizen lawsuit over its violations.

Under the proposed settlement, filed with Copenhaver on Wednesday, Powellton has agreed to an aluminum treatment action plan and also must identify methods for controlling iron, manganese and other pollutants from its operations. Future violations will be subject to fines starting at $2,000 the first year and increasing to $12,000 per violation in the third year. Money from those penalties will go to the WVU legal clinic.

WVU's law school has agreed to provide nearly $1 million to the project, making the total budget for the Land Use and Sustainable Development Law Clinic about $2.2 million over four years, court records show.

The law clinic would be set up to help the local community protect land essential to watershed protection, and to specifically help solve residential wastewater issues, such as "straight pipe" sewage disposal. A state DEP report listed such sewage disposal as one of the major pollution issues in the Gauley Watershed, citing more than 2,000 homes in that area that aren't serviced by centralized sewage treatment systems.

The law clinic will not work on litigation, but provide other legal assistance, such as help in preparing applications for grants to help create better sewage treatment programs in the area.

Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kward@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.


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