North Birmingham’s Bluestone Coke plant issued warning for Clean Water Act violations

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In this contributed photo, black polluted water from Bluestone Coke flows into Five Mile Creek.

In this contributed photo, black polluted water from Bluestone Coke flows into Five Mile Creek.

Photo courtesy of Nelson Brooke/Black Warrior Riverkeeper

Bluestone Coke, an industrial plant in North Birmingham, has 60 days to clean up contaminated water in Five Mile Creek before it faces a federal lawsuit, according to a notice of intent to sue submitted by environmental groups.

Black Warrior Riverkeeper and the Greater-Birmingham Alliance to Stop Pollution, represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center, sent a notice against Bluestone Coke Friday for Clean Water Act violations.

The goal of the notice is to force Bluestone Coke to comply with federal regulations, but Nelson Brooke, a Black Warrior Riverkeeper employee who oversees the creek, said he has questions about whether the company has the intention or ability to do this.

“They’re going to have to invest pretty significantly in their pollution treatment controls to bring the facility into compliance,” Brooke said.

According to the notice, the company itself has reported 392 permit violations for pollutants, such as ammonia, in its Discharge Monitoring Reports. The plant can discharge its wastewater into a tributary of Five Mile Creek, which flows through nearby Fultondale, Coalburg and Brookside.

“It’s really an environmental injustice. The surrounding communities have not received the justice that they deserve,” Brooke said.

Black Warrior Riverkeeper says in its own testing, the group found the company discharging pollutants such as E. coli, which aren’t permitted.

An aerial view of Bluestone Coke's industrial facility in North Birmingham.
An aerial view of Bluestone Coke’s industrial facility in North Birmingham. (Photo courtesy of Nelson Brooke/Black Warrior Riverkeeper)

In December, Bluestone Coke agreed to pay a $925,000 fine for chronic air quality violations as part of a consent decree with the Jefferson County Board of Health. However, the company did not admit to violating its permit.

The Jefferson County Health Department alleged in May that the plant had stopped making payments, accruing $238,000 in penalties and additional daily fines for late payment. Attorneys for Bluestone Coke did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Read the notice filed by the Southern Environmental Law Center below.

 

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