One of the nation’s largest coal producer has landed a $27.5m fine and must spend $200m to reduce illegal toxic discharges into hundreds of waterways across five Appalachian states, according to a proposed settlement Wednesday.
“This is the largest one, period,” said Cynthia Giles, head of the environmental protection agency’s enforcement office, told the Associated Press. “It’s the biggest case for permit violations for numbers of violations and size of the penalty, which reflects the seriousness of violations.”
Between 2006 and 2013, Alpha Natural Resources Inc and dozens of subsidiaries violated water pollution limits in state-issued permits more than 6,000 times, according the government sources. Heavy metals and other contaminants harmful to fish and other wildlife were released from nearly 800 outfall pipes directly into rivers, streams and tributaries. Monitoring records attached to the complaint show that in some cases, the releases exceeded permit limits by 35 times.
Under the agreement, mine operators are obligated to install wastewater treatment systems and take other measures aimed at reducing discharges from 79 active coal mines and 25 coal-processing plants in those five states.
Bristol, Virginia-based Alpha, the nation’s third largest coal supplier, estimates those steps will cost about $200m.