Coal company leaves contractor without full pay after polluting the New River

Coal company leaves contractor without full pay after polluting the New River

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"It paid well. They were adamant to get somebody quickly. We sent emails in and got an agreement to do the work. At the end of two weeks, we never got paid," Howard said. "It paid well. They were adamant to get somebody quickly. We sent emails in and got an agreement to do the work. At the end of two weeks, we never got paid," Howard said.
As an email indicates, Premium Coal wanted the job at Remediation Site 19 to start as soon as possible.    As an email indicates, Premium Coal wanted the job at Remediation Site 19 to start as soon as possible.

By DON DARE
6 On Your Side Consumer Investigator

HUNTSVILLE (WATE) - A contractor in Anderson County is having a hard time getting paid by a coal company for a job that started nearly a year ago.

The contractor says he has had to lay off employees because he has not received timely payments.

Nearly a year ago, Premium Coal Company in Briceville, near Lake City, was sent a Notice of Violation by mining regulators.

Premium Coal was charged by the state for illegally dumping more than a million gallons of coal slurry into the New River. It was told to clean up the mess.

To comply, the coal company hired a nearby heavy construction outfit.

Outside of Huntsville, a crew from Twin K Construction is setting up the frame to the new Family Dollar Store. While this crew is busy, the construction company's big dump trucks are idle.

Their drivers were unfortunately laid off because Twin K still has not been fully paid from a job that started 11 months ago.

In Briceville at the Premium Coal Company site, Twin K trucks were busy for a short period last March, removing dirt from the polluted New River.

Steve Howard, the owner of Twin K, says Premium Coal was anxious last February for him to get a crew to the mountain site so they can begin work.

As an email indicates, Premium Coal wanted the job at Remediation Site 19 to start as soon as possible.    

"It paid well. They were adamant to get somebody quickly. We sent emails in and got an agreement to do the work. At the end of two weeks, we never got paid," Howard said.

Despite no pay, his crew worked through the end of March 2012.

"After that two weeks we shut down, wanting payment because we couldn't buy fuel or pay our employees. With still no response from Premium Coal with any money," he said.

"We stopped some of our work to go do this for them, to help them," said Marsha Keeton, Twin K's bookkeeper.

The company's records show in July, they demanded payment of $185,000 from Premium Coal.

"We've sent certified letters demanding payment and email with a final demand. Each time, it's to no avail," Keeton said.

With his trucks and their drivers not working, Howard took matters into his own hands. Last August he went to Briceville, where he personally met with the superintendent and demanded payment.

"Right at $125,000 is what they paid. They still got an outstanding invoice for over $50,000," Howard said.
   
The deficit affected the company's bottom line. Right before Christmas several drivers were laid off.  

We went to the Briceville office, but no one was inside. Their phone had been disconnected. Presently the mine is not operating.

The company eventually sent 6 On Your Side a response.

"We do not authorize work without a purchase order. Twin K did not have a P.O.. It is their responsibility to get a P.O.," said Steve Ball, Vice President of Premium Coal.

At the corporate office, the vice president of operations said, "We do not authorize work without a purchase order,"

"Twin K did not have one," Ball said. "It's the vendor's responsibility to acquire a P.O."

But the contractor says an e-mail from the Briceville site manager approving work at Remediation Site 19 was the purchase order. The job was approved after Twin K submitted its proposals.    

Howard says his men worked hard at the mine and, like individual workers, contractors expect to be paid.

"I want my money. Pay me my money," Howard said. "I'll never work for them again."
 
Howard said he had been called by Premium Coal and told a check is on the way.

On the afternoon of Wednesday, Jan 16., Howard received a check for more than $50,000. He said he is "very pleased" to have finally received full payment.


If you have a consumer issue, call the 6 On Your Side Hotline at 865-633-5974 or email ddare@wate.com.

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