By Associated Press - Tuesday, April 7, 2015

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) - Patriot Coal is being sued by environmental groups who say the company’s Hobet 21 mountaintop removal mine in Southern West Virginia is polluting the Mud River watershed.

The Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, West Virginia Highlands Conservancy, and the Sierra Club said they have identified multiple violations of water quality standards at the Boone County mine.

“In fact, the pollution from more than twenty valley fills at the site has caused almost the entire Mud River watershed to become ‘biologically impaired,’ meaning that the pollution is killing off aquatic life, to the point where these streams are no longer healthy ecosystems,” the groups said in a news release.

Patriot Coal didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Mountaintop removal is a form of strip mining in which companies blast apart mountain ridges to expose multiple coal seams. The resulting rock and debris is dumped in streams, creating valley fills.

The Hobet 21 mine’s pollution permit prohibits dumping materials into waterways in concentrations harmful to humans, animals or aquatic life, or concentrations that significantly affect aquatic ecosystems, the environmental groups said.

“Patriot Coal is flagrantly violating the terms and protections that are in its own permits, and this has created a serious water quality problem over a significant area. Treating this pollution will be challenging, and should be a reminder that the coal industry has long avoided paying for the true cost of its mining operations. Instead, much of that cost has been offloaded onto West Virginia’s water, its wildlife and its citizens,” Dianne Bady of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition said in the release.

The groups said the lawsuit was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Huntington. They had notified Hobet Mining in December 2014 that they would sue if the pollution problems were not corrected within 60 days.

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