JEFFERSON COUNTY, Ala (WIAT) — For decades, the Black Warrior River has been contaminated with pollution.
In a win for concerned environmentalists, this week a federal judge ruled that Drummond Company is violating the Clean Water Act by continuously discharging acid mine drainage into the Black Warrior River’s Locust Fork from the Maxine Mine site.
Eva Dillard, the staff attorney for Black Warrior Riverkeeper, said this has been a long time coming, but a fight well worth it.
Buddy Vines Camp, located off the Locust Fork in Jefferson County, is a beloved Bessemer resource.
“It’s a beautiful section of the river. It has great fishing; hunting is great. We have water sports. People enjoy the river for a variety of reasons,” said owner Buddy Vines.
The contamination left by an old mine operation has Vines worried about where the future lies for his camp.
“Who wants to come to a water resource that has pollution in it? You don’t want to do that and might not want to eat the fish out of the river, and certainly don’t want your children swimming in it,” said Vines.
In an order issued on May 7, Judge Abdul Kallon rejected Drummond’s arguments that the Clean Water Act does not prohibit ongoing pollution originating from a substantial coal mine waste pile left at the site when mining operations ceased.
“You can’t even get a boat in there. You can literally walk across it, so it’s one of the ugliest sights our riverkeeper Nelson Brook has seen in this year of doing the job” said Dillard.
Coal mine waste is visibly piled up in Locust Fork. Vines said he’s grown up here and seen the change.
“The growth of algae we’ve seen in the river, since this occurred. We have algae we never had before, and I’m told it feeds on iron, and iron is what the mine discharges,” said Vines.
There is still more to come in this case but the riverkeepers said this is a big win.
“This is an area that belongs to all of us, and it should be cleaned up and be preserved and protected for everybody,” said Dillard.
CBS 42 reached out to Drummond Company for a comment about the judge’s ruling but has yet to hear back.
The Black Warrior River Keeper said there are still additional claims they will pursue in trial.