MORGANTOWN (AP) -- Massey Energy Co. said Thursday it will create a medical monitoring fund to provide health screenings for hundreds of Southern West Virginia residents suing the company over claims it poisoned their wells with coal slurry.
Shane Harvey, Massey's general counsel, said the deal was reached even though a second mediation attempt in Charleston this week failed to settle other issues in the long-running lawsuit against Virginia-based Massey and a subsidiary, Rawl Sales & Processing.
Harvey said that while Massey is confident its operations didn't affect the plaintiffs' water supplies, "We hope that the medical monitoring program will go a long way toward easing the plaintiffs' concerns and leading to a fair and complete resolution of all issues.''
He did not say how much Massey will spend on the fund.
Attorney Bruce Stanley said the medical monitoring plan will let his clients "learn the true extent of the human harm Massey's irresponsible environmental practices have inflicted upon the people of Rawl.''
They will proceed with the rest of the case, he said, calling it "the ugly but vital business of holding Massey fully accountable'' for harm already inflicted.
More than 700 current and former residents of Rawl, Lick Creek, Sprigg and Merrimac claim Massey and Rawl contaminated their water supplies by pumping 1.4 billion gallons of toxic coal slurry into worked-out underground mines between 1978 and 1987.