| A Mingo County judge is working to resolve over 700 coal slurry pollution cases against Massey Coal. The cases involve current and former residents of Mingo County.|
A class-action suit is being approved, although some of the cases have apparently been settled.
A trial is scheduled to begin May 12 that claims the coal companies contaminated local water wells by dumping 1.4 billion gallons of coal slurry into closed underground mines between 1978 and 1987.
Massey denies the allegations, saying mineral rights agreements dating to 1889 give the company "the full right to take and use all water found on the premises."
Larry Brown Jr. said he was offended by the judge's attempt at legal efficiency, saying he felt like an animal being lined up and pushed through the door.
Brown is rejecting the $37,000 to $60,000 he was offered by Massey, because he doesn't think it was fair compensation for decades worth of exposure.
"I had to brush my teeth in it, take a shower in it and eat food that was cooked in it for 25 years," Brown said.
Before public water came to the Mingo County area, residents had to haul their water and purchase bottled water to drink.
In their lawsuits, residents claim they have suffered health problems from drinking, bathing and cooking with coal slurry laced water.
Coal slurry is a by-product formed by washing coal.
The company says they injected the slurry to save the $55,000 it would have cost to gather enough rock and earth to build a surface impoundment.
Tests now show toxic coal slurry ripples and bubbles through the area in varying degrees, from "highly toxic to simply toxic."
The state Department of Environmental Protection has allowed coal slurry to be injected underground for decades.
The EPA failed to complete a study that would determine how harmful the process is on human beings, but a study will finally be presented to lawmakers next month.
Betty Ayers, now a resident of Asheboro, N.C. said she was hoping to obtain a settlement worth $141,250 to $276,000. She plans to reject the companies $11,000 offer.
James Anderson, now 41, had a gall bladder attack when he was 17. He says a trial is an opportunity "to take something from them because they have taken something from me." He now has a multitude of health problems.
Anderson said "We're just a bunch of dumb hillbillies. That's what they think."
Note: The "Unquiet Earth" is the title of Denise Giardina's book about coal mining in West Virginia
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