Wednesday, January 17, 2001

Sludge cleanup cost exceeds $46 million

By Roger Alford
The Associated Press

        PIKEVILLE, Ky. — The cost of cleaning up 250 million gallons of coal sludge in eastern Kentucky is expected to reach $46.5 million.

        That was the estimate given to stockholders by Fluor Corp. of Aliso Viejo, Calif., the former parent company of Massey Energy and Martin County Coal, which state officials are holding responsible for one of the worst environmental disasters ever in the Southeast.

        The disclosure far exceeded the $16.5 million estimate from a state consultant. In just the first month after the spill, the company spent $10 million on the cleanup, said Fluor spokesman Keith Karpe.

        “They've brought in a lot of equipment and several hundred people,” said Mark York, spokesman for the Kentucky Cabinet for Natural Resources and Environmental Protection. “It may very well be the case that the costs are past the $40 million mark.”

        Excavators working around the clock since the Oct. 11 spill have removed up to 80 percent of the black, molasses-like goo from property along Coldwater Creek outside of Inez, said Heather Frederick, a spokeswoman for the state environmental agency.

        The coal waste escaped through a crack in the bottom of the 70-acre pond into an underground mine and rushed in tor rents off the mountainside, covering residential property along Coldwater in up to 10 feet of sludge.

        The spill killed fish and other aquatic life along Coldwater and Wolf creeks and cut off drinking water supplies to residents along about 60 miles of the Big Sandy River and its tributaries.

        The state ordered Martin County Coal to clean up the affected areas and replace all the fish and other wildlife.


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