Monday, October 16, 2000

Sludge closes Kentucky water plant

By Jennifer Bundy
The Associated Press

        CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Sludge released when a coal slurry impoundment collapsed in eastern Kentucky caused the shutdown early Sunday of the Louisa, Ky., water plant, which was supplying water to Fort Gay, W.Va.

        The Louisa plant closed at 2 a.m. Sunday, cutting off water to about 2,500 residents, said Roberta New some, a water plant operator.

        Sludge that had been only in the Tug Fork of the Big Sandy River backed up into the Levisa Fork, which Louisa gets its water from.

        “We've got a river that's black,” Ms. Newsome said.

        “It wasn't into our river but now it is,” she said. “Everybody told us it wasn't going to get in our water. Now we're shut down.”

        Some Louisa-area residents were without water Sunday, Ms. Newsome said.

        Water was being hauled in from Lowmansville, Ky. The plant on Sunday asked the Kentucky National Guard to haul more water in faster, Ms. Newsome said.

        The Martin County Coal Corp. sent two flatbed trucks carrying 1-gallon jugs of drinking water to Louisa on Sunday, spokesman Bill Marcum said.

        The sludge release began Wednesday when a Martin County Coal slurry impoundment near Inez, Ky., broke into an underground mine below. It sent more than 200 million gallons of slurry pouring into the mine and then into two nearby streams that feed the Tug Fork. The spill is several miles long and up to 70 yards wide.

        The company has been dredging and excavating sediment from streams in Kentucky and installing filter berms since then.

        Water intake valves in several West Virginia and Kentucky towns have been closed.

        Fort Gay shut its water intake system Friday and had been hauling water from the Louisa plant, about a mile away. Because of the hauling, none of the approximately 1,600 people served by the Fort Gay plant have been without water, said Fort Gay Mayor Lawrence Thompson.

        Fort Gay on Sunday began sending trucks to Prichard, which gets its water from the Kenova water plant.


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