Tuesday, October 24, 2000

Company pledges to clean up sludge

Cost no object, president says

By Roger Alford
The Associated Press

        INEZ, Ky. — A huge black crater is all that remains on the mountaintop where a coal-mine pond gave way nearly two weeks ago, sending a wave of sludge down steep slopes into streams.

        Dump trucks and bulldozers have since plugged the hole in the pond where 210 million gallons of coal waste escaped like water from a bathtub.

        Martin County Coal Corp. opened the site to reporters Monday, allowing the first close-up look at ground zero of what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is calling one of the worst environmental disasters ever in the Southeast.

        After a bus tour along miles of bumpy mountain roads, the president of the coal company gave his first press conference, vowing to clean the mess regardless of the cost.

        “We're trying to relieve the misery and get residents' lives back to normal as quickly as possible,” said Dennis Hatfield.

        The sludge leaked from the bottom of the pond into a mine, sending torrents of black water and coal debris through the mine shafts.

        Mr. Hatfield said the hole created a large vortex in the pond, like what forms in a bathtub when the drain is unplugged.

        Tom Meikle, director of surface mining for Massey Coal Services in Charleston, W.Va., said he expects sludge levels to fall enough in the next two to three days that residents will no longer have to travel across the mountain to get to Inez.

        Mr. Hatfield said the company, a subsidiary of A.T. Massey, hadn't stopped to count up the cost or to consider legal ramifications of the spill.

        “We will deal with those later,” he said.

        Martin County Judge-executive Lon Lafferty said some people are questioning whether the coal company can survive the financial burden of the cleanup, which, he said, will run into millions of dollars and take at least five months.

        Mr. Hatfield said the company has been too busy dealing with the cleanup to consider the financial consequences.


Shirey embattled but still standing
Shirey's comments on ...
Leaders' comments about Shirey
Teen girls accused of selling ecstasy
Tristate officials plan for sludge
- Company pledges to clean up sludge
Flu shot ready - well, for some
Ohio crucial, but candidates elsewhere
Council debates sex laws
County to pay for radios
PULFER: Why not share the wealth in Over-the-Rhine?
Texas gets UC lesson on minority inclusion
Eastern Warren takes hit in reappraisal
Firing range has foes
Airmail gets roomier nest
Art the perfect soul food
Artist's home to become arts center
City spending records show bar, eatery, golf outings
CROWLEY: Let's vote to get this over with
Drivers adjust to road closing
Drunken driving standard set
Indians aid area pupils with history
Kentucky Digest
Local Digest
Lockland appoints development leader
Man faces assault charges
Man held in shotgun incident
Newport plans gun buyback
Protests aired over teen home
Write-ins aim to change Villa Hills