Public hearing on permit
renewals for a coal sludge impoundment
December 5, 2000
Photos by Deana Smith
Hydrogeologist Rick Eades speaks at a public hearing on the permit renewals for AT
Masseys Brushy Fork coal
slurry impoundment above Whitesville, WV. Doyle Coakley,
of the Citizens Coal Council, holds the map for Rick, who
reviewed the permit for OVEC. Three coal company executives
and engineers sit in the front row, listening as Rick challenges
statements they had made earlier.
Here are some excerpts from Ricks report for OVEC:
· Note that the original permit was for only 270
acres, and with IBR-6 had grown to 645 acres. (IBR is Incidental
Boundary Review. Rick notes that IBRs are routinely approved,
though they are anything but incidental.)
· MSHA (Mine Safety and Health Administration) officials
have apparently told Whitesville resident Freda Williams
that the site is the top high priority in the
area, although current status of the database ranks it as
moderate in risk, just as the Martin County
KY site was ranked before it
· Currently permitted acreage at Brushy Fork Slurry
Impoundment is 645 acres, making it the single biggest facility
of its type in Southern WVs coal fields, based on
current TAGIS database review.
· Massey officials have confirmed that the pond
is permitted to store nearly 5 billion gallons of slurry,
20 times more than the amount released at the Martin County,
· Should Marfork Coal Company be successful in further
expanding the dam, it could eventually hold over 22,700
acre-feet of slurry at normal stage. That is roughly equivalent
to slurry aquarium with a base the size of a football field
and a height that is higher than Mount McKinley, the highest
mountain in North America.
· Although many in the industry and in the regulatory
community contend that the coal waste is nothing more than
rock and dirt, that is only partially true
stages, coal cleaning also includes the use of flocculants
of the compounds sometimes used as a flocculant is of serious
concern. It is not known at this time is that flocculant
has been used in coal cleaning or slurry at the Brushy Fork
site or nearby prep plant. Superfloc A-1885 RS Flocculant
is described in Material Safety Data Sheet toxicology sections
as follows, contains (a) chemical(s) known
cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.
· Serious concerns exist with regard to heavy metals
occurrence in coal slurry or sludge. Chemical analyses of
the sludge and water, and toxicology reports, are still
(!) pending almost 2 months after the Martin County KY disaster
of concern in coal slurry include mercury, lead, arsenic,
chromium, cadmium, boron, selenium, nickel, and others.
· Several seams have been mined beneath the Brushy
the Eagle seam may occur within as
little as 100 feet of the base of the impoundment. The Eagle
seam has been deep mined extensively in the area by room
and pillar method. ..Two separate attached plates graphically
show the extent of Eagle mine workings directly beneath
the pond area of the impoundment. The mine workings extend
significantly to the northwest. One of those map plates
shows only a partial area of the permitted slurry pond.
Over 350,000 square feet of that partial area of the approved
pond is estimated to be underlain by Eagle mine workings.
· And the shear volume of material at Brushy Fork
combined with the close proximity to the Eagle Coal seam
workings indicates this facility warrants the utmost caution.
· A.T. Massey is the parent company for both Martin
County Coal Company (KY) and Marfork Coal Company (Brushy
Fork). Consultants that served MCCC include Ogden Environmental.
Geo/Environmental, which often represents Marforks
concerns, has staff that departed from Ogden, including
Scott Ballard. This may be of no concern, but may also suggest
increased vigilance with which regulatory oversight at the
Brushy Fork facility occurs.
· All parties with any concerns about the integrity
of slurry ponds located over deep mines should err on the
side of caution at this time. Experience is the best teacher.
Lets all pray we are learn something from the Martin
County KY experience, and that neither automatic pilot levels
of denial nor business as usual mentalities - will
govern our actions.
OVEC Board co-chair John Taylor holds up a bucket of the
coal waste sludge collected at the slurry pond
failure disaster site in Martin County, KY.OVEC staffer
Janet Fout holds up a photo of the disaster taken by Paul Justice. The coal company officials in the front row had
strained expressions on their faces. Perhaps they were thinking
that a similar pond failure at the Brushy Fork
impoundment could have disastrous consequences for the town
of Whitesville, WV.