Justice-Controlled coal company liable for water pollution in McDowell County

GARY, WV (WOAY) – On July 27 a Judge ruled that a Jim Justice-Controlled coal company, Bluestone Coal Corporation, was liable for more than 3,000 water pollution violations. 

The day before, gubernatorial candidate Ben Salango donated 300 gallons of water to the town of Gary to help with their water crisis and criticized Governor Justice for not acting soon enough on the issue. Since then Justice has called his criticism “political hoopla.”

The Town of Gary had their water pumping system shut down on Tuesday, July 21. Gary contacted officials from all over the local and state government, including the office of Jim Justice and gubernatorial candidate Ben Salango from Kanawha County. And on Sunday, Salango donated hundreds of gallons of water to Gary. 

“I had a number of residents from Gary, West Virginia contact me and some residents just in McDowell County who don’t live in the City of Gary about a water problem that they’re having. Their pump went out on Tuesday and so they contacted me on Friday because they weren’t getting a response out of the Governor’s office,” Salango said.

After donating the water, Salango took to Twitter, criticizing Governor Justice for not speaking up about the water crisis in a timely manner. In response, Justice in his Monday press briefing said the situation with Salango and the water crisis was political hoopla. He claimed his office was hard at work trying to aid the Town however they could. 

“We had a political hoopla go on in the Town of Gary. Well y’know really and truly when our people found out about this situation of Gary being out of water and everything. What we did is we immediately contacted the National Guard,” Justice said.

Salango has also recently criticized Justice for his role in violations of the Clean Water Act in McDowell County. 

“He’s abandoned mines and has caused all kinds of environmental issues. He was just cited for over 3,000 violations of the Clean Water Act with his mines,” Salango said. 

Gary’s water issues and Justice’s coal company being held liable for pollution are not directly related, but Salango said he was still disappointed that the Governor’s companies have contributed to water pollution in McDowell County.

It’s estimated that the Bluestone Coal Corporation’s violations of the Clean Water Act could have financial penalties reaching as high as $160,000,000. 

As of July 28, Justice has ordered more aid to be sent to Gary. He has ordered the West Virginia National Guard (WVNG) and the West Virginia Emergency Management Division (WVEMD) to provide all necessary resources to the City of Gary.