Friday, November 10, 2000

Inez fears sludge-clogged creeks will flood

By Roger Alford
The Associated Press

        INEZ, Ky. — Residents have been keeping all-night vigils in this mountain community mired in 250 million gallons of coal sludge.

        Delmer Moore and his neighbors worry that heavy rains could cause flash flooding in streams clogged with the black goo.

[photo] Crews continue to remove coal sludge from Delmer Moore's back yard near Inez, Ky.
(Associated Press photo)
| ZOOM |
        “We have a very dangerous situation here,” Mr. Moore said Thursday. “With the streams filled with sludge, floodwater would have no place to go but into our homes.”

        Crews have been working around the clock for a month to clean up a spill from a mountaintop coal-mine pond that fouled about 60 miles of the Big Sandy River and its tributaries. So far, about 10 percent of the material has been removed.

        Fred Stroud, on-site coordinator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said the cleanup could take five to six months.

        In Greater Cincinnati, the rains aren't expected to affect the sludge that has rested on the bottom of the Ohio River.

        Officials at water departments in Cincinnati and Newport say they have continually tested Ohio River water at their intakes, about 200 times a day. Newport Water Works Director Frank Peluso said there is no indication from agencies monitoring the river that there is any danger locally.

        “We checked the water at Inez shortly after the sludge spill and determined we could treat that water and it would be safe to drink.” Mr. Peluso said.

        Some portions of eastern Kentucky have received up to 2 inches of rain the past few days — enough to raise stream levels significantly in mountainous terrain. But Inez has received less than a quarter of an inch.

        Forecasts called for the weather system that brought the rain to move out of the state by early today .

        Bill Marcum, a spokesman for the Martin County Coal Corp., which owns the pond, said enough material has been removed from the creeks that flooding shouldn't be a problem.

        “We're confident but watchful,” he said.


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