Massey Energy settles W. Va. pollution suit

By Vicki Smith
Associated Press / July 28, 2011

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - After a marathon mediation session that ended just before dawn yesterday, mining company Massey Energy settled a 7-year-old lawsuit with hundreds of southern West Virginia residents who claim the company poisoned their drinking water supplies with coal slurry.

Circuit Judge Alan Moats, who serves on the state’s Mass Litigation Panel, said that he and Judge Derek Swope worked with the lawyers until nearly 4 a.m. to hammer out an agreement in Charleston. The financial terms will not be disclosed. Moats said that, as is typical in a settlement, Massey admits no wrongdoing.

“We’re pleased we were able to find an agreeable resolution for all parties,’’ said Rick Nida, spokesman for Virginia-based Alpha Natural Resources. Alpha became involved in the case when it bought Massey for $7.1 billion in June and has been considering a deal that would satisfy both sides, he said.

The parties have been under a gag order, but an attorney for the plaintiffs issued a brief statement.

“After a seven-yearlong fight and looking after one another, the good people of Rawl, Lick Creek, Merrimac, and Sprigg have achieved a settlement,’’ said lawyer Bruce Stanley.

Some 700 people had sued Massey and its Rawl Sales & Processing subsidiary, claiming the companies contaminated their aquifer and wells by pumping 1.4 billion gallons of toxic coal slurry into worked-out underground mines between 1978 and 1987.

Slurry is created when coal is washed to help it burn more cleanly. The residents said it seeped out of the old mine workings and into their aquifer, tainting their well water. top stories on Twitter

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