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Court rules Drummond is violating Clean Water Act on Black Warrior River’s Locust Fork

Jessica Ballard

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Drummond Company has been found to be violating the Clean Water Act by continuously discharging acid amid mine drainage into the Black Warrior River’s Locust Fork from the Maxine Mine site.

Judge Abdul Kallon rejected Drummond’s arguments that the Clean Water Act does not prohibit ongoing pollution originating from a substantial coal mine waste pile left at the site when mining operations stopped.

 “We are pleased with the ruling in our lawsuit challenging Drummond’s ongoing pollution at its Maxine Mine site, which poses a significant threat to people and wildlife on the Black Warrior River’s Locust Fork,” said Barry Brock, senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center.  “The court found as a matter of law that Drummond is violating the Clean Water Act by discharging acid mine drainage at the site.”

The Black Warrior Riverkeeper filed the lawsuit in 2016. The ruling granted Black Warrior Riverkeeper’s motion for summary judgment seeking to hold Drummond liable for discharges of contaminants contained in surface water being channeled from the waste pile to the river. Additional liability claims by Black Warrior Riverkeeper and the determination of an appropriate remedy for the site will be determined later at trial.

 “This case is a prime example of the need to address long-standing, serious water pollution violations in Alabama,” said Jim Hecker, co-counsel in the case and environmental enforcement director for public justice. “The Riverkeeper’s citizen suit has worked as Congress intended to enforce the law when governmental agencies have not.”

Locust Fork is near Praco, Alabama, where the abandoned underground coal mine is located. When Drummond stopped mining efforts at the Maxine Mine, mining waste,  sediment basins full of coal mining waste and contaminated runoff was left at the site. Since then, mining waste has been leaking into the Locust Fork and tributaries through surface water runoff and seeps.

“Drummond’s abandoned Maxine Mine has been illegally discharging coal mine waste and toxic water loaded with heavy metals into the lower Locust Fork for decades,” said Nelson Brooke, a riverkeeper for Black Warrior Riverkeeper. “Maxine Mine’s discharges are upstream of homes, recreation areas and drinking water sources. It is about time for this nasty site to be cleaned up.”

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