Article courtesy of Circa | February 12, 2014 | Shared as educational material
A coal facility leaked thousands of gallons of coal waste into a stream one month after chemicals to clean coal contaminated a nearby West Virginia river.
Kanawha County, West Virginia
A valve break at a Patriot Coal plant caused a leak of about 108,000 gallons of coal slurry, a by-product of coal mining and preparation. The spill blacked six miles of Fields Creek, which contaminated the Kanawha River. The same plant was cited in Oct. 2010 and Nov. 2013 for slurry spills.
“This is a big deal, this is a significant slurry spill. When this much coal slurry goes into the stream, it wipes the stream out.” Randy Huffman, West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)
Although the spill started sometime between 2:30 and 5:30 am, the plant did not inform the DEP until 7:40, after it had spilled for hours, which Huffman said was “unacceptable.” Companies are required to report spills to the DEP immediately.
Patriot released a statement saying it was cooperating with authorities and that it had stopped using the MCHM chemical about a month earlier, when another coal company in West Virginia spilled it. The company exited a 2012 bankruptcy in Dec. 2013 with nearly $800 million of capital from investors.
Roughly 300,000 people living in nine West Virginia counties were told not to use their tap water for drinking, bathing, washing clothes or cooking after a 48,000-gallon tank began leaking a chemical used to clean coal. An unknown amount of the substance ended up in the Elk River.