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Landowner reaches deal on mountaintop removal pollution

Environmental groups have reached an agreement through which a corporate landowner will apply for a Clean Water Act permit to regulate ongoing pollution from a valley fill at a strip-mine site in Mingo County, the groups announced Tuesday.

Hernshaw Partners LLC agreed to submit a permit application to the state Department of Environmental Protection to cover discharges of toxic selenium from the former mine site in Mingo County.

The mine site’s permit was released by DEP in 1997, after mining ceased and the operation was determined by state regulators to have been reclaimed. When permits are released, the state DEP is supposed to determine whether any pollution discharges continue. The permit release allows the mine operator to stop reporting its pollution or ensure pollution remains within permitted limits.

Despite the permit release, the Sierra Club and other groups sued in June 2013, alleging that their monitoring had showed that the valley fill was still discharging selenium at levels that exceeded state and federal water quality standards.

Under the settlement, Hernshaw agreed to begin monitoring selenium discharges from the site, and to report those discharges to DEP when it applies for a new water pollution permit for the site, the Sierra Club said in a statement.

Citizen groups have for several years been trying to target landowners at former mountaintop removal sites for continuing pollution. Several other similar cases are pending in U.S. District Court in Charleston.

Reach Ken Ward Jr. at or 304-348-1702.

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