CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - A federal judge has ruled that using settling ponds to remove sediment from streams at mountaintop removal coal mines violates the Clean Water Act.
The ruling by U-S District Judge Chuck Chambers jeopardizes an industrywide practice that's been used for decades. Chambers also ruled that the U-S Army Corps of Engineers doesn't have the authority to allow mines to discharge sediment into settling ponds.
The corps has long allowed mountaintop removal mines to build settling ponds just below valleys that have been filled with rock and dirt removed to expose shallow coal seams. The corps has maintained that those stretches are wastewater treatment ponds and not waters of the United States.
The decision came in a lawsuit brought by the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition and two other groups.
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