Montana Code Annotated 2023



Part 2. Coal and Uranium Mine Reclamation

Suit For Damage To Water Supply

82-4-253. Suit for damage to water supply. (1) An owner of an interest in real property who obtains all or part of a supply of water for domestic, agricultural, industrial, or other legitimate use from an underground source other than a subterranean stream having a permanent, distinct, and known channel may sue an operator to recover damages for contamination, diminution, or interruption of the water supply, proximately resulting from strip mining or underground mining.

(2) Prima facie evidence of injury in a suit under this section is established by the removal of coal or disruption of overlying aquifer from designated ground water areas as prescribed in Title 85, chapter 2, part 5. If the area is not a designated ground water area, a showing that the coal or overlying strata is an aquifer in that geographical location and that the coal or the overlying strata has been removed or disrupted shifts the burden to the defendant (operator) to show that the plaintiff's (owner's) water supply was not injured thereby.

(3) An owner of water rights adversely affected may file a complaint detailing the loss of water in quality and quantity with the department. Upon receipt of this complaint the department shall:

(a) investigate the complaint using all available information including monitoring data gathered at the mine site;

(b) require the defendant (operator) to install monitoring wells or other practices that may be needed to determine the cause of water loss, if there is a loss, in terms of quantity or quality;

(c) issue within 90 days a written finding specifying the cause of the water loss, if there is a loss, in terms of quantity or quality;

(d) order the mining operator in compliance with chapter 2 of Title 85 to replace the water immediately on a temporary basis to provide the needed water and within a reasonable time, replace the water in like quality, quantity, and duration, if the loss is caused by the strip-mining or underground-coal-mining operation; and

(e) order the suspension of the operator's permit for failure to replace the water, until such time as the operator provides substitute water.

(4) A servient tract of land is not bound to receive surface water contaminated by strip mining or underground mining on a dominant tract of land, and the owner of the servient tract may sue an operator to recover the damages proximately resulting from the natural drainage from the dominant tract of surface waters contaminated by strip mining or underground mining on the dominant tract.

(5) This section and 82-4-252 do not create, modify, or affect any right, liability, or remedy other than as expressly provided.

History: En. Sec. 22, Ch. 325, L. 1973; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 295, L. 1975; amd. Sec. 29, Ch. 441, L. 1975; R.C.M. 1947, 50-1055(3) thru (5); amd. Sec. 293, Ch. 42, L. 1997; amd. Sec. 5, Ch. 98, L. 2013.