Groups sue BNSF, claiming coal trains pollute water

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BNSF Railway Co. is polluting Washington's waterways with releases of coal dust and chunks of coal from open-top rail cars, a lawsuit filed Wednesday alleges.

The Spokane Riverkeeper joined the Sierra Club, Puget Soundkeeper Alliance and other nonprofit groups in filing the suit in U.S. District Court in Spokane. A companion lawsuit was filed in Western Washington.

The lawsuit names the Spokane River and its Hangman Creek tributary among Eastern Washington waterways affected by coal releases, which the suit says is a violation of the federal Clean Water Act.

The Spokane Riverkeeper's Bart Mihailovich said he and volunteers collected pebble-size chunks of coal from the river and Hangman Creek near three railroad crossings in the spring. A lab analysis confirmed that the material was coal, he said.