Tri States Public Radio Staff
Fri December 11, 2009
Coal Mine Could Face Lawsuit
Canton, IL – Three environmental groups say they're prepared to sue the Freeman United Coal Mining Company over violations at the strip mine near Industry.
The Sierra Club, Prairie Rivers Network, and the Environmental Law and Policy Center say there have been more than 300 violations of the company's state-issued water permit during the past five years.
The groups say they sent the company a 60-day intent to sue notice. They vow to follow through with a lawsuit if the company fails to respond.
The Sierra Club's Joyce Blumenshine says the violations are well documented - by the company itself.
"All of the documentation came from reporting the mine itself sent in," says Blumenshine. "That's required by its permit."
She's unsure why the state has failed to follow up on the problems.
The environmental groups say the mine has regularly discharged wastewater with illegal levels of pollutants. The pollutants include manganese, total suspended solids, sulfates, iron, and acidic water.
"The magnitude of the number of violations for this Industry mine is horrific," says Blumenshine.
Blumenshine says an active summer maternity roost tree for the federally endangered Indiana Bat was found on the mine property. She says Indiana Bats were drift net captured near an adjacent stream before the most recent permit for the mine was approved. She says the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommended the mining permit be denied.
A hearing on the permit renewal drew a standing room only crowd to the elementary school cafeteria in Industry in January. A few months later, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources approved the permit.
Blumenshine says a historic heron rookery was also located on Grindstone Creek in the mine area. She says the mine permit required a tree buffer area for the creek, but with the amount of water pollution going unchecked into the area, she wonders as to how long or even if the creek is still a living stream capable of supporting fish and an aquatic ecosystem.
The environmental groups held a news conference in Canton to announce their intent to sue notice. They chose Canton in order to raise awareness about the proposed North Canton coal strip mine, which is seeking permits. Environmentalists and other activists fear that operation could harm drinking water supplies.