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Feds approve $900,000 settlement for water violations at Southern Coal mines

The U.S. EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice have agreed to a $900,000 civil penalty for Southern Coal Corp. to settle violations of the Clean Water Act across five states of Appalachian coal mines.

The penalty is part of a $6 million settlement reached earlier this year, in which the company agreed to spend $5 million toward comprehensive upgrades at its mining and processing operations to "prevent discharges of polluted wastewater from their mines in Appalachia."

Specifically, the government found that Southern Coal had violated discharge limits for "iron, total suspended solids, aluminum, pH and manganese" as outlined in state permits and "failed to submit complete and timely discharge monitoring reports, made unauthorized discharges and failed to respond to EPA requests for information."

Under the terms of the agreement, Southern Coal also must implement an environmental management system, conduct environmental audits at all its facilities and create a website to make water test results available to the public.

Southern Coal is owned by Jim Justice, the Democratic governor-elect of West Virginia. An October investigation found that Justice owed $15 million in taxes and fines for mine safety violations.