Property Owners Sue Buckingham Coal Co.

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Owners of a piece of land in Trimble Twp. have filed a lawsuit against Buckingham Coal Co., claiming that Buckingham polluted their property and mined non-coal minerals without compensating them.

Ronald, Rick and Seth Kesterson of Red Rock Road, Glouster, filed the lawsuit Tuesday in Athens County Common Pleas Court. According to the court case, they own a 45-acre tract beneath which Buckingham has mined coal.

The Kestersons, who don’t own the coal rights for their property, assert that during its mining of the land Buckingham also removed other minerals, including sandstone, limestone and gravel, for which the Kestersons were not compensated.

The lawsuit also claims that more than a year ago, in January of 2013, the Kestersons noticed “a spewing yellow substance emanating from Buckingham’s coal mine” and contaminating their property, a nearby stream and their pond.

According to the lawsuit, the Kestersons contacted Buckingham Coal to request that the situation be remedied, but that as of the filing of the lawsuit the contamination continues.

The Kestersons assert that several thousand of their fish have been killed and the water rendered unsafe to drink.

The lawsuit claims negligence on the part of Buckingham.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources are aware of the situation.

“ODNR was first notified by Ohio EPA in February 2013 and it was determined that regulatory authority falls under ODNR’s Division of Mineral Resources Management,” ODNR spokesman Mark Bruce wrote in an email to The Messenger. “This is a complex situation that has not been resolved; we are in contact with all parties involved to continue to investigate and ultimately remediate the situation.”

The Kestersons are seeking in excess of $25,000 in compensatory damages, plus an unspecified amount of punitive damages. They also ask for an accounting of all non-coal minerals allegedly removed from their property and of the amount of any money Buckingham received from those minerals.

As of Thursday, Buckingham had not yet responded to the lawsuit.

The Messenger tried unsuccessfully to contact a Zanesville attorney who has represented Buckingham Coal in the past.