More of Massey's Total Environment
December 10, 2005
Photos by Sarah Haltom Unless Otherwise Noted
Sludge Spills: The Gifts Massey Keeps on Giving
gave out gifts to
low income kids in Kentucky, it gave out another "gift" to the
one it gives out far too frequently: another blackwater (sludge) spill.
Coal River Mountain Watch volunteer Bo Webb was in the group's
office in Whitesville when someone knocked on the door. It was a
neighbor, with a bottle full of blackwater--evidence of the latest
mishap at the Marfork Coal
processing plant, a Massey subsidiary. Blackwater was pouring from
the plant into Marsh Fork, a tributary of the Little Coal River. (Water
from these streams joins the Kanawha River, which joins the Ohio River,
which joins the Mississippi; millions of people live downstream from
Bo called CRMW's Sarah and Vern Haltom, who took alerted the media
and the so-called Department on Environmental Protection. The pair
snapped photos and collected samples. Sarah and Vern watched the
creek raise about 8 inches during the most intense period of blackwater
release from the plant. Vern is CRMW's representative on the
Sludge Safety Project,
a collaborative effort of OVEC, CRMW and concerned residents of Mingo
A pump that moves the
heavy metal, chemical-laden waste from processing coal up to the
Brushy Fork coal sludge impoundment had failed. As one TV station
covering Massey's exploits that day noted, Massey had the pump failure,
while simultaneously pumping gifts to kids low income kids.
The DEP told the media that no drinking water supplies were affected,
which isn't really accurate. Whitesville draws its water from the Coal
River, and did shut down during the blackwater surge. However, not all
the blackwater flowed on downstream. Some sludge settled to the bottom,
to be stirred up every time there is a heavy rainfall. And what about
the water intake plants downstream. For instance, did the St. Albans
plant, near where the Coal River flows into the Kanawha shut down?
TV news inaccurately reported that the spill was just above Marsh
Fork Elementary, but it was at Pettus, by the Head Start school there.
Below are some pictures of Massey's gift that it keeps on giving, as
well as a recent aerial shot of the Brushy Fork coal sludge
impoundment, which is slated to hold 9 Billion gallons of sludge.
All these blackwater spills make you wonder if the Astroturf group
"Friends of Coal" should be known as "Enemies of Water."
Vern investigates the blackwater spill.
Vern! Don't let this stuff get on your skin!