Groups say billionaire's Tenn. mines pollute water

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 20, 2014 at 4:14 pm •  Published: June 20, 2014

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Two environmental groups say a West Virginia billionaire's Tennessee coal mines are violating federal law by not monitoring water pollution.

The groups filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in East Tennessee this week against S&H Mining, saying an underground mine in Campbell County is discharging pollutants into forks of the New River. Statewide Organizing for Community Empowerment, based in Knoxville, and the Sierra Club, filed the lawsuit on Thursday.

The groups also filed a notice that they intend to file additional lawsuits against S&H and two other Tennessee coal companies owned by billionaire Jim Justice, alleging that the companies' mines are violating the Clean Water Act by not filing water pollution reports.

Steve Ball, vice president of operations for the Justice Corp. based in Roanoke, Virginia, said in an email Friday that the company denies the allegation that the recent water discharge reports for the Tennessee mines have not been submitted. Ball said he has not yet seen any of the legal filings from the environmental groups.

Justice's Tennessee mining operations are currently idled "due to the continuing depressed market conditions," Ball said.

The groups say the mines are releasing more iron, manganese, and suspended solids into the waterways than what their permit allows. The Justice-owned companies S&H along with National Coal and Premium Coal have not submitted the required water pollution reports since the fourth quarter of 2013, according to the group's court filings. The reports are required as part of the Clean Water Act.