Several environmental groups say Frasure Creek Mining is committing water quality violations on its Open Fork No. 1 Surface Mine in Fayette County. On Nov. 14, the groups filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue if steps were not immediately taken to remedy the pollution problems.

So far, no civil suit has been filed in court. Mike Becher, a lawyer from Appalachian Mountain Advocates representing the groups, says a settlement is possible but would not comment further on details.

The Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy and Sierra Club are the groups filing the suit. They allege that Frasure Creek violated selenium discharge allowances at two Open Fork outlets on nine separate occasions. They also allege 40 aluminum and iron violations, as well as monitoring and reporting violations.

They say the occurrences violate the Clean Water Act, the West Virginia Water Pollution Control Act, and the Surface Mine Control and Reclamation Act.

The intent to sue states that Frasure Creek’s existing treatment methods are “insufficient” and the company should be “obligated to construct systems that will effectively treat its effluent” to comply to legal standards.

The allegations in this case are similar to those made by the three groups in a number of other suits against coal companies in West Virginia.

Over the past year, the three organizations have successfully won settlements with Arch Coal, Alpha Natural Resources and Patriot Coal related to selenium violations at surface mines in West Virginia, including one in Fayette County.

In some cases, the court ordered installation of technology to treat selenium pollution, plus millions in penalties.

The settlement money was given to the West Virginia Land Trust and the recently-created WVU Land Use and Sustainable Development Law Clinic.

Selenium is an element that is discharged from many surface coal mining operations in Appalachia that mine selenium strata coal seams. It is toxic to humans if  consumed in excess. It is also toxic to fish and other wildlife exposed to high levels.

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