Coal slurry spills into Kanawha County creek

Charleston Daily Mail photo by Craig Cunningham Workers use rock, straw, and plastic to try to slow Fields Creek so the sediment will drop out before it gets to the Kanawha River after a coal slurry spill at Kanawha Eagle Prep Plant occured sometime between midnight and 5:30 a.m. Tuesday.

 

Charleston Daily Mail photo by Craig Cunningham Workers use rock, straw, and plastic to try to slow Fields Creek so the sediment will drop out before it gets to the Kanawha River after a coal slurry spill at Kanawha Eagle Prep Plant occured sometime between midnight and 5:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Charleston Daily Mail photo by Craig Cunningham
Workers use rock, straw, and plastic to try to slow Fields Creek so the sediment will drop out before it gets to the Kanawha River after a coal slurry spill at Kanawha Eagle Prep Plant occured sometime between midnight and 5:30 a.m. Tuesday.

By Matt Murphy

Charleston Daily Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — About 108,000 gallons of coal slurry blackened six miles of Fields Creek in Eastern Kanawha County Tuesday after a coal processing plant line carrying the substance ruptured.

“This has significant adverse environmental impacts,” said Randy Huffman, secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection. “This is a significant slurry spill.”

Huffman said a valve seal broke on the coal slurry line at the Kanawha Eagle Prep Plant, a subsidiary of Patriot Coal.

However, pumps moving slurry through the line continued to run for roughly three hours, filling a secondary containment area, which then overflowed into the creek.

“When this much coal slurry gets into a stream, it wipes the stream out,” Huffman said.

The spill began sometime between 2:30 and 5:30 a.m. Tuesday, but Huffman said the company notified the DEP about 7:40 a.m. He said an unknown amount of time passed between the time plant employees discovered the spill and the report to the DEP.

Coal processors are required to report chemical spills immediately.

The DEP estimated the amount of spilled slurry based on the amount of time the pumps ran after the valve broke. Huffman said an alarm system designed to alert employees when such an incident occurs apparently wasn’t working.

DEP officials were overseeing containment and cleanup Tuesday afternoon. They used a vacuum to suck up contaminants and put them into a containment area. The DEP is also testing water at various points along the creek.

Huffman said the slurry does not contain the coal-cleaning chemical MCHM — the primary chemical involved in last month’s Freedom Industries spill along the Elk River. DEP officials initially believed MCHM was being used at the site. However, the Kanawha Eagle Prep Plant switched last month to polypropylene glycol.

But he also said there are likely chemicals much more harmful than either MCHM or polypropylene glycol in raw coal slurry…

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