Briana Heaney Published

DEP Sues Pinnacle Mining; Residents Say Toxic Creek Is Poisoning Them

A man sits in a shed holding a mason jar of yellow foggy water. The man is older, with blue eyes, he looks upset.
Residents along the creek have water coming out of their wells that are discolored.
Briana Heaney/West Virginia Public Broadcasting

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection filed a lawsuit against Pinnacle Mining, a defunct coal mining company that was bought by a company owned by Gov. Jim Justice. A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday at 1 p.m. in Pineville. 

In the lawsuit, the DEP, accuses Pinnacle of discharging harmful chemicals into Indian Creek. 

Around sundown, residents said you used to hear a roar of frogs. Now it’s silent. 

They said they have broken out in rashes and had medical symptoms they had never experienced before like frequent headaches and stomach aches. 

Along the creek bed, there are greasy pools, tongs of white slimy strings, and yellow foam. A woman who lives along the creek had 100 chickens die around the same time the frogs stopped singing. 

Resident Richard Altizer said he doesn’t know what chemicals are causing the putrid sulfur smell that comes out of his neighbors well, but he knows it’s not natural. He said that someone should go to jail for poisoning people’s wells. 

Altizer said he doesn’t trust the DEP even though in the lawsuit they filed the agency is requesting relief in the form of asking the companies to clean up the water sources and to prevent any more unauthorized discharges from entering the stream. 

“It’s the DEP that is not protecting us like they were supposed to be,” Altizer said. “They did not protect us. And there will be no accountability.” 

There will likely be more court dates in the future regarding Indian Creek. The Environmental Protection Agency  just settled with conservation advocacy groups for its alleged failure to monitor chemical levels in the Guyandotte River, which Indian Creek feeds into. 

Pinnacle Mining was purchased by Bluestone Resources, a coal company owned by Justice.