Type: Law Bulletins
Date: 07/25/2012

Will That Coal Ash Impoundment Send Someone To Jail?

A recent criminal prosecution should have corporate management, in-house counsel, and environmental managers evaluating their coal ash and coal slurry impoundments and employee responsibilities.  On July 5, 2012, The Ohio Valley Coal Company (“Ohio Valley”) pled guilty to two misdemeanor counts of having negligently violated the Clean Water Act for allowing coal slurry releases into a tributary of the Ohio River in separate incidents in 2008 and 2010.  This came on the heels of the criminal prosecutions against both a plant manager and environmental manager as a result of the 2008 incident.  The 2008 incident resulted from the negligent discharge of wastewater from a coal slurry impoundment, whereas the 2010 incident resulted from a ruptured pipeline that caused a discharge that bypassed the treatment system.            

According to court records, heavy rains in the winter of 2008 caused the water level in Ohio Valley’s coal slurry pond to be unusually high.  A permit was not yet in place to allow Ohio Valley to raise the dam level.  Slurry at the bottom of the pond gave way, resulting in slurry wastewater exiting a decant pipe and entering into the tributary.  The discharge was not monitored because it occurred before a new monitoring system had been installed and was functional.  This discharge violated Ohio Valley’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (“NPDES”) permit, which required the monitoring and testing of such discharges for pollutants.  The release blackened the creek for 22 miles downstream.

To read more. please read Bill Wagner's recent blog post on Commonground.

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