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Wyoming Co. Jury Says Coal Activity Did Not Damage Well Water

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Jessica Lilly
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Paulette Blankenship stands by her kitchen sink. Tests of her well water have showed toxic chemicals.

A jury has ruled in favor of a coal company in Wyoming County Circuit Court. The verdict came in Thursday afternoon after only a few hours of deliberations.

Fifteen families accused Dynamic Energy, a subsidiary of Mechel Bluestone Inc., of contaminating their water supplies. The trial began in April.

The families said that Mechel Bluestone violated the West Virginia Surface Coal Mining and Reclamation Act and damaged several wells along Cedar Creek Rd. in Clear Fork.

Water testing presented by the plaintiffs showed high levels of arsenic, aluminum, lead, iron and other pollutants.

Representatives of the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection testified that there was no correlation between a nearby surface mine and the wells.

Mechel Bluestone Inc. is owned by front runner for state Governor, Jim Justice. Justice sold the mine to a Russian Company in 2009 but bought it back last year.

The company responded to the verdict in an email. Chief Operating Officer for
Justice Management Services with Bluestone Industires, Inc Tom Lusk said,

"I want to thank the Jury, our attorneys, and the people from Wyoming County for seeing through this attempt by Plaintiff's Attorneys to extort money from an already struggling industry.
Fortunately, the facts meant more to this Jury, of Wyoming County Residents, than distortions and absurd attempts to allege that Mining harmed these water wells.  Thankfully, this frivolous lawsuit did not end in more harm to our good West Virginia coal miners and their families."

David Barney, an attorney for the families who filed from Cedar Creek, said they will appeal.


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