Moats said he wants "to resolve cases to everyone's agreement and advantage. Hopefully, these cases will be resolved this week."
If those efforts fail, the first trial is scheduled to begin Aug. 1.
Moats also told the plaintiffs at the Civic Center, "No judge can force you to settle your case."
After Swope and Moats spoke, the plaintiffs attended private mediation meetings closed to the public.
In the early afternoon, a dozen people who filed suits went to the Capitol and held a news conference organized by Stephanie Tyree, coordinator of the Sludge Safety Project -- a group formed by the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition and Coal River Mountain Watch.
James Scott, 54, said, "There are children who are sick and cannot enjoy their lives. Some people in their 40s and 50s are confined to their homes. We are telling the Legislature, 'You need to do what the people want you to do. We will not tolerate this anymore.'
"Today, we don't know what diseases will hurt us most. We don't know if our hair will fall out. We are living in a toxic area. We were not aware of this for many years. We were always left in the dark."
Things got better in 2007, Scott said, when the city of Williamson began piping in clean water to homes in Rawl and nearby towns.
Delegate Michael N. Manypenny, D-Taylor, told the group at the Capitol, "I look forward to introducing legislation that will use new technology. That technology is already there."
If this week's mediation efforts fail, three other circuit judges on the panel would develop plans for a trial: Ohio County Judge James P. Mazzone, Raleigh County Judge John A. Hutchinson and Lincoln County Judge Jay M. Hoke.
In their lawsuits, current and former residents of the Mingo County towns claim they have suffered health problems including chronic gastrointestinal disorders, skin cancers and major organ cancers.
Many say they also suffered from developmental disorders from extensive exposure to lead and other toxins when they were children.
Coal sludge is created when coal is washed and processed before being shipped to power plants.
Coal sludge is often stored in huge refuse ponds above mining towns. Sometimes, coal companies pump sludge into old underground mines and other underground cavities, according to the Slurry Safety Project.
That sludge can travel underground, poisoning nearby rivers, streams and wells.
Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjny...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.