Massey to pay for health screening of slurry victims

Posted on behalf of Stewart Bell, PLLC on Feb 25, 2011 in Coal Mining Accidents

One lawsuit against Massey Energy Co. advanced this week when the company announced it will fund medical monitoring for the southern West Virginia residents involved in a coal slurry case. The agreement came out of the latest mediation session between the mining giant and the plaintiffs' counsel. Both sides say there's quite a bit of work yet to close the matter. Massey is juggling this suit with many others, including claims related to the Upper Big Branch coal mine accident .

The plaintiffs claim that Massey and its subsidiary Rawl Sales & Processing poisoned wells when it dumped coal slurry into worked-out underground mines near their towns. They maintain that the slurry turned their drinking water brown, black and red, and that long-term exposure to the chemicals and metals in slurry have contributed to birth defects, developmental disabilities, cancer and other ailments.

For its part, Massey continues to assert that its operations did not affect the drinking water. In a statement following this week's agreement, the company said it hoped the medical monitoring program would "go a long way toward easing the plaintiff's concerns."

More than 700 residents from four communities joined the complaint. The slurry dumping occurred between 1978 and 1987.

Coal slurry is a byproduct of the process that makes coal burn more cleanly. Massey is just one company that for decades has pumped slurry into worked-out deep mines in an effort to save money. The industry has maintained that the practice is safe. Critics say otherwise -- the slurry migrates through cracks in the earth and contaminated groundwater. The cracks can be natural or man-made, and played-out mines are likely spots for both kinds.

Source: ABC News, "Massey Agrees to Medical Monitoring in Slurry Case," Vicki Smith, 02/24/11

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