Decanio said all but the Alpha companies have agreed to confidential settlements.
"The court system is the great equalizer of America,'' he said. In the courtroom, "We are going to be on the same footing as Massey, as Alpha and as the DEP, and we will put them in their place.''
The first of the cases is set to be tried April 25 in Boone County Circuit Court, where Decanio said his expert witnesses are prepared to testify they have established a link between mining activities and bad water.
Decanio says they include a hydrologist from Penn State University and an environmental engineer from Marshall University who have studied the problem longer and gathered more data.
The DEP said nearly half the residents interviewed for the Triad study reported odors and discoloration, "but there was a very poor correlation'' between those complaints and lab results.
None of the wells sampled exceeded primary drinking water standards for metals, it said. But one exceeded secondary standards for aluminum and 12 exceed the secondary standard for manganese and iron.
Primary standards are enforceable limits that are based on potential health risks, while secondary standards are merely guidelines for contaminants that cause changes in taste, color or odor, or create cosmetic effects such as skin or tooth discoloration.
Of the 13 residents with the strongest complaints, Triad says only four had samples that showed high sulfate levels. Triad determined the complaints were most likely related to iron and sulfate metabolizing bacteria rather than human activity.
It also said groundwater flow in the study area is localized, and wells penetrate different rock formations, producing different water quality despite their proximity to each other.
"What we saw was typical water for southern West Virginia,'' Triad's senior geologist, John Meeks, said in a DEP press release. "Water quality was actually better than that reported by the U.S. Geological Survey for this part of the state.''
The study began in December 2010 and cost about $130,000.