Federal court rules Alabama coal company Drummond is violating Clean Water Act

An aerial photo shows coal mining waste from Drummond Company's abandoned Maxine Mine site pouring into the Locust Fork. (© Nelson Brooke, Flight provided by SouthWings)

An Alabama federal judge has ruled that Drummond Company is violating the Clean Water Act at its Maxine Mine site by continuously discharging acid mine drainage into the Black Warrior River’s Locust Fork. In an order issued May 7, Judge Abdul Kallon rejected Drummond’s arguments that the Clean Water Act does not apply to ongoing pollution originating from a substantial coalmine waste pile left when mining operations ceased.

The lawsuit was filed in 2016 by Black Warrior Riverkeeper, represented by SELC and Public Justice. This week’s ruling granted Black Warrior Riverkeeper’s motion for summary judgment seeking to hold Drummond liable for these discharges. Additional liability claims by Black Warrior Riverkeeper, as well as the determination of an appropriate remedy for the site, will be determined later at trial.

“We’re pleased with the ruling in this lawsuit challenging Drummond’s ongoing dumping of pollutants into the river at its Maxine Mine site, which poses a significant threat to the Black Warrior River’s Locust Fork,” said Senior Attorney Barry Brock. “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 abandoned underground coal mine is located on the banks of the Locust Fork of the Black Warrior River near Praco, Alabama. When mining operations at the Maxine Mine ceased in the 1980s, an enormous pile of mining waste was left at the site, as well as a system of drainage ditches and sediment basins full of coal mining waste and contaminated runoff. As a result, mining waste and acid mine drainage have been diverted to the river and illegally discharging into the Locust Fork and tributaries through surface water runoff and seeps for years. The mine’s waste has also completely filled what was once a flowing tributary of the Locust Fork.

“Drummond’s abandoned Maxine Mine waste pile has been illegally discharging coal mine waste and toxic water loaded with heavy metals into the lower Locust Fork for decades,” said Nelson Brooke, 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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