Environmental groups sue Bardstown coal company

A coalition of four environmental groups calling themselves Appalachian Voices sued a Bardstown coal company in federal court Tuesday over Clean Water Act violations.

The company, Nally & Hamiltion Enterprises, submitted false and incorrect water pollution reports to state regulators, the environmental groups said.

When Appalachian Voices filed notice of intent to sue in March, Nally & Hamilton and the state Energy and Environment Cabinet had 60 days to investigate its claims. On Friday, the state filed an administrative action that found 4,600 violations, cabinet spokesman Dick Brown said. Civil penalties will be determined by a hearing officer, he said.

The state's response was inadequate, Appalachian Voices representative Donna Lisenby said.

Nally & Hamilton's discharge monitoring reports submitted over several years "display cavalier disregard for these requirements and threaten the health of Kentucky citizens and the environment," says the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in London.

The lawsuit says that at least 48 times between May 2008 and June 2010, Nally & Hamilton's data for discharged pollutants were repeated exactly from a prior month. On 68 occasions, the company omitted required information.

Appalachian Voices said that it has found more than 12,000 violations in Nally & Hamilton's reports and that it believes some of the violations might be criminally fraudulent.

Appalachian Voices, working with Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, Kentucky Riverkeeper and New York-based Waterkeeper Alliance, last fall announced that it had reviewed tens of thousands of public records and discharge monitoring reports. The group filed a notice of intent to sue two other companies, ICG of Hazard and Knott County and Frasure Creek Mining, for Clean Water Act violations. The environmental group has sued in Franklin Circuit Court to intervene in ICG and Frasure Creek's agreed order to pay a total of $660,000 and retool their water testing contractors.

Appalachian Voices' allegations led to a review of the state Department of Natural Resources' records, and citations have been issued, Brown said previously.

The Herald-Leader learned of the suit against Nally & Hamilton about 5 p.m. Tuesday. The company's representatives could not be reached.