Riverkeeper files lawsuit against Shannon Mine

The Black Warrior River, as seen from the Riverwalk in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — The Black Warrior Riverkeeper, an organization devoted to protecting the Black Warrior River and its tributaries, filed a citizen lawsuit for 758 water pollution violations at the Shannon Mine.

The lawsuit was filed under the Clean Water Act and the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act in U.S. District Court.

Shannon Mine, a surface coal mine, operates in Jefferson and Tuscaloosa counties. The mine’s location pits it in the Upper Black Warrior River watershed.

The Riverkeeper’s lawsuit brings to light the company’s self-reported violations of its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit (NPDES) dating back to February 2010.

According to a release from the Black Warrior Riverkeeper, Shannon Mine has been discharging pollutants into Little Blue Creek, an unnamed tributary to Little Blue Creek, Lick Branch and Blue Creek.

The release says the discharged pollutants are in violations of the mine’s NPDES permit, which permits only 76 water pollution discharges at the more than 6,300-acre mine.

The affected streams flow into Valley Creek, a direct tributary to Bankhead Lake. Bankhead Lake is on the Black Warrior River.

The cited violations are for selenium, a chemical that can be toxic to people and wildlife.

Selenium oftentimes impacts the aquatic food chain and can result in the poisoning of fish, birds and other wildlife in the ecosystem.

“Shannon Mine is polluting tributaries to Valley Creek in violation of its Clean Water Act permit, upstream of where thousands of people recreate each year,” Nelson Brooke of the Black Warrior Riverkeeper said. “That’s not the way it is supposed to work, so we aim to hold Shannon, LLC  accountable to the law.”

The mine has also reported violations for iron and total suspended solids.

Copyright 2013 WIAT-TV CBS 42

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