JUDGE REDUCES SPILL FINE 90% - Biggest Spill In East, Tug And Big Sandy

A judge has drastically reduced a federal fine for a mining company whose waste pond leaked millions of gallons of coal sludge into eastern Kentucky and West Virginia waterways in 2000.

The spill has been described as the worst in eastern USA, about 300 million gallons of thick gooey sludge that spilled into the Tug and Big Sandy rivers.

The spill contaminated water systems for 30 miles.

Martin County Coal Corporation faced $55,000 in fines from the US Department of Labor for the October 2000 spill.

Last week a ruling by Irwin Schroeder, an administrative law judge with the Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission in Washington, cut the federal fine by 90 percent.

It's now $5,500.

The fine reduction has upset some citizens and towns along the spill.

The federal government's fine doesn't include a multi-million dollar penalty Martin County Coal agreed to pay to the state in 2002.