Sierra Club, Highlands Conservancy May Sue CONSOL for its Dunkard Creek Discharges

Two environmental groups say they will sue CONSOL Energy if the company does not come into compliance with federal water quality standards within the next 60 days. Ben Adducchio from West Virginia Public Broadcasting reports.

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Two environmental groups say they will sue CONSOL Energy if the company does not come into compliance with federal water quality standards within the next 60 days. Ben Adducchio from West Virginia Public Broadcasting reports.

The Sierra Club and the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy say CONSOL's Clean Water Act violations caused serious harm to aquatic life in Dunkard Creek during a recent fish kill.

Jim Kotcon is with the West Virginia Sierra Club.

"The potential for additional aquatic life damage is very high, and we think it's critical that the company comply with the Clean Water Act with that stream, and that we establish that as a precedent for other streams that are at risk from high salt pollution, as well as the golden algae," he said.

Currently, under an order issued by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, CONSOL must not exceed water quality standards for chloride when it discharges water from its underground coal mines into Dunkard Creek during warmer temperatures.

But during colder temperatures, CONSOL can discharge nearly twice the amount of chloride allowed. CONSOL must also build its first treatment plant for its discharges in northern West Virginia by 2013.

But Kotcon says this isn't soon enough.

"That's several years of continued water quality violations; that is clearly not permitted under the law in our opinion," he said.

"(WV) DEP's compliance order gave much weaker enforcement provisions than the Clean Water Act would require."

Last September, a fish kill wiped out up to 22,000 fish in Dunkard Creek.

The creek meanders along the West Virginia-Pennsylvania border. West Virginia environmental officials point to toxins from a golden algae bloom as the culprit.

But the Pennsylvania DEP and the U.S. EPA say CONSOL's mine discharges created the conditions for the algae to bloom.