Coal-Slurry Spill Devastates West Virginia Creek
Some 100,000 gallons of coal slurry were accidentally released into a West Virginia stream on Tuesday. State officials are calling the spill significant.
The source of the spill was Patriot Coal's Kanawha Eagle coal preparation facility in Kanawha County, which is located near Fields Creek. Reporters, bloggers and environmentalists have shared photos and videos of the spill on the Internet, showing that the water in the creek has turned to a muddy, dark gray.
Officials say that at least six miles of the creek have been severely affected and the slurry has made its way into the Kanawha River, which is fed by Fields Creek.
"This has had significant, adverse environmental impact to Fields Creek and an unknown amount of impact to the Kanawha River," Secretary Randy Huffman of West Virginia's Department of Environmental Protection told a local newspaper. "This is a big deal."
"When this much coal slurry goes into the stream, it wipes the stream out," continued Huffman.
The spill reportedly the result of a slurry-line valve that malfunctioned early Tuesday morning. The line carries coal waste from the plant to an off-site disposal facility. According to Huffman, Patriot Coal did not call West Virginia's DEP until several hours later, and added that the company is required to report spills immediately. The reported failure of an alarm system, which usually alerts plant operators of facility failures, meant pumps continued to send the slurry through the system without warning to staff.
Watch the YouTube video, below, of the spill's aftermath by AppalachianVoices.org.