Saturday, February 03, 2001

Coal firm would reopen pond that spilled

250 million gallons were dumped in fall

The Associated Press

        INEZ, Ky. — Representatives of Martin County Coal Corp. have asked state regulators for permission to resume dumping coal wastes into the impoundment that poured 250 million gallons of slurry into local streams last fall.

        The company's plan, filed Thursday by the state Department of Surface Mining, would allow Martin County Coal to restart its preparation plant — closed since the Oct. 11 spill.

        The plan also calls for trucking fine coal wastes into the impoundment after drying the material in cells. Coarse coal waste from the plant would be carried by conveyor belt to the impoundment.

        No action has been taken on the request, said Mark York, a spokesman for the state agency.

        “It's safe to say any request to use the impoundment will undergo very serious scrutiny by our cabinet,” Mr. York said.

        Martin County Coal has continued to mine coal since the spill, but has been shipping raw coal by rail to a coal-cleaning plant in Pike County owned by its parent company, Massey Energy.

        In a letter dated Jan. 30, chief engineer Randall Johnson said the proposal would allow Martin County Coal's 300 employees to continue working “while we seek a longer-term solution.”

        The request comes while a team of federal investigators attempts to find out what caused the spill. Coal company officials have said a “sudden and unexpected” roof fall in an abandoned underground mine adjacent to the impoundment created a leak that allowed slurry to burst through two old mine portals and pour into Coldwater and Wolf creeks.

        Mr. York said state officials understand local residents will have concerns over the proposal, which he said requires state and federal approval.

        No applications have been filed concerning the plan, and Mr. York said he had “no idea” when a decision on the proposal would be made.


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