Illinois Attorney General sues American Coal Co. over coal slurry

The Illinois attorney general’s office filed a lawsuit Friday against the American Coal Co. in connection with a slurry discharge in February that caused one home to be evacuated and flowed into a nearby creek.

“Our first priority is to ensure that the contamination does not spread and further jeopardize public health and safety,” Attorney General Lisa Madigan said in a news release announcing the lawsuit.

The complaint was filed in Saline County court.

“This action will ensure that the company continues cleanup and monitoring while a remediation plan is put into place,” she added.

The office alleges that an injection well located north of Bethel Road near the village of Raleigh leaked unknown quantities of coal slurry and that the coal byproduct flowed into Bethel Creek and contaminated soil and groundwater.

An Illinois Environmental Protection Agency spokeswoman said earlier this month that at least 3.8 miles of the creek had been contaminated by the slurry.

The leak was discovered by American Coal on Feb. 9, prompting the company to report the incident to government agencies. The Illinois EPA had turned the matter over to Madigan’s office for enforcement action to stop further discharge.

According to the coal company, the slurry is a mixture of water, rock and coal. The incident, the company said, is minor. The company has been on the site for cleanup since finding the leak.

“The American Coal Co. continues to work diligently to address this minor, inadvertent release of slurry. We understand that this lawsuit was filed in order to formally establish our existing cleanup plan, on the record, and make it legally enforceable,” a company statement read.

“We continue to work closely with the appropriate governmental regulators and to take all measures necessary to prevent any environmental impact.”

In filing the complaint, the court also granted Madigan’s request for a preliminary injunction to address environmental concerns during litigation. The court’s order requires American Coal to continue 24-hour cleanup and remediation including at the evacuated home.

American Coal is also required to determine the cause of the mishap and the extent of contamination, and report those findings to the IEPA while also providing updates on cleanup efforts.