Black Warrior Riverkeepers share more information about lawsuit filed against Birmingham coal processor

Black Warrior Riverkeepers says they’ve documented instances of Bluestone Coke violating environmental permits over the last five years
Bluestone Coke accused of polluting air, waterways
Published: Sep. 15, 2023 at 6:42 AM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - We’re learning more about a lawsuit filed by two Birmingham nonprofits that hope to see a coal processing plant clean up its act, claiming it’s polluting the waterways and air.

“As the riverkeeper, it’s my job to be out there documenting what’s coming out of the facility,” says Nelson Brooks, who works with Black Warrior Riverkeepers.

The mission of Black Warrior Riverkeepers is to keep the Black Warrior River, and any body of water that feeds into it, clean and safe for all to enjoy.

“They have a permit via the department of clean water and environmental management and that requires them to pre-treat their waste water and storm water before discharging it into Five Mile Creek,” Brooks says of Bluestone Coke.

Black Warrior Riverkeepers and Greater-Birmingham Alliance to Stop Pollution, or GASP, another environmental nonprofit that recently filed a lawsuit against Bluestone Coke, claim their levels of pollution violate operating permits.

“What we found is that they’re not properly treating their storm water. It’s actually bypassing into a tributary into five mile creek,” Brooks says.

According to Brooks, the plant has been idle since 2019, but that since then, toxic chemicals have been leaking back into the creek.

“They had their clean air permit denied by the Jefferson County Health Department because of negligence in operating in that capacity, so ideally if a plants not in operation they should not be emitting pollutants in the way that they are,” says Brooks.

These chemicals, according to Brooks, can cause serious harm.

“We’re talking about a lot of contaminants found in coal. There are a lot of heavy metals, there are chemicals,” said Brooks. “When you coke coal it produces all sorts of byproducts including coal tar. There are nasty byproducts that can be very harmful to humans and wildlife.”

By filing the suit in federal court under the clean water act, Brooks, along with others at Black Warrior Riverkeepers, hope to finally see Bluestone clean up its act.

“Our concern is that this facility sits in the middle of communities in north Birmingham that have been dealing with all of this industrial pollution for far too long, with very little redress or accountability to the company and so we’re interested in seeing the company held accountable for,” Brooks says.

WBRC received the following statement from one of Bluestone Coke’s attorneys:

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