Processing Magazine

New coal-related incident in West Virginia raises water safety questions

February 13, 2014

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West Virginia has been struck by serious water quality problems lately that have tested the patience of residents and businesses alike. Now another incident has raised further questions regarding water safety in the state.

Officials from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) have reported a significant spill from the Kanawha Eagle Prep processing facility near Winifrede and about 100,000 gallons of coal slurry was discharged into Fields Creek, a stream in eastern Kanawha County. Some of the slurry reached the Kanawha River near Chesapeake, the West Virginia Gazette reported.

The cause of the incident was a ruptured slurry line that broke between midnight and 5:30am on Feb. 11. Randy Huffman, secretary of the state DEP, explained that the impact on the Kanawha River is still unknown but the incident has caused "significant, adverse environmental impact" to Fields Creek.

RELATED: Chemical spill contaminates drinking water in nine West Virginia counties

The company operating the plant, Patriot Coal, explained to the DEP that it had been using a frothing chemical known as Flomin 110-C that contains MCHM. Officials at the department have been testing the water to assess how much of the material had spilled into the waterway and samples will be taken to South Charleston for analysis.

In a statement released after the incident, the West Virginia DEP said that enforcement action against Patriot Coal was pending.