No Break from Water Pollution for West Virginia

Still reeling from a major chemical spill on Jan. 9 that contaminated the drinking water supply for 300,000 residents, word comes of a significant coal slurry spill. Unlike the earlier spill, the water supply is said not to be threatened.

"More than 100,000 gallons of coal slurry poured into an eastern Kanawha County stream Tuesday (Feb. 11) in what officials were calling a "significant spill" from a Patriot Coal processing facility," write Ken Ward and David Gutman.

Emergency officials and environmental inspectors said roughly six miles of Fields Creek had been blackened and that a smaller amount of the slurry made it into the Kanawha River near Chesapeake..

According to the Sludge Safety Project, "(c)oal slurry or sludge is a waste fluid produced by washing coal with water and chemicals prior to shipping the coal to market," unlike the spill of coal ash, the waste product from burning coal, that spilled into the Dan River in North Carolina that we posted Saturday and the December, 2008 spill in Kingston,Tenn. that was one of the worst environmental disasters in the country. The chemical 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, or MCHM that spilled from a leak at Freedom Industries holding tank on Jan. 9 into W.Va's Dan River is used to wash coal.

For most of the day, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) was operating under the assumption that MCHM...was included in the spilled slurry. [DEP Secretary Randy] Huffman said that they learned late in the day that the facility had stopped using MCHM just a few weeks ago, so a different coal-cleaning chemical was involved.

Nonetheless, Huffman stated that the spill "has had significant, adverse environmental impact to Fields Creek and an unknown amount of impact to the Kanawha River." 

While "(t)here are no public water intakes immediately downstream from the spill site," according to DEP's press release, the real damage is to the stream. "When this much coal slurry goes into the stream, it wipes the stream out", said Huffman.

Full Story: 'Significant' slurry spill blackens Kanawha creek

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