Spill Sends 100,000 Gallons of Coal Slurry into Kanawha Creek
Between 2:30 am and 5:30 am early Tuesday morning - February 11 - more than 100,000 gallons of coal slurry leaked from a Patriot Coal processing facility. The spill - which safety officials have deemed "significant" poured into an eastern Kanawha County stream. Approximately six miles of Fields Creek was blackened by the coal slurry and small amounts of the slurry had entered into the Kanawha River near Chesapeake.
According to reports, the spill is believed to have been caused by a valve malfunction in a slurry line that transports material from the preparation plant to a disposal site. State officials from the Department of Environment Protection (DEP) stated that Patriot Coal did not alert the DEP of the spill until nearly 8:00 am Tuesday, hours after the valve malfunction and leak were estimated to have begun. Companies are required to immediately report any spills to the DEP. Although an alarm system was in place to alert workers of a valve malfunction, it had failed. As a result, pumps continued to send coal slurry through the system until it eventually overflowed into the creek.
Safety officials and environmental inspectors from the state (DEP) have commented on the seriousness of the spill, stating that is has had a "significant, adverse environmental impact" on Fields Creek and parts of the Kanawha River. State officials had also initially believed that the coal slurry contained MCHM, the same chemical involved in the Freedom Industries spill. However, Patriot Coal had discontinued the use of MCHM just weeks earlier, and the slurry contained a processing chemical known as polypropylene glycol. Officials from West Virginia American Water have announced that the slurry spill will not impact the water plant.
Holding Companies Accountable
This spill is the second in a month where facility operators failed to timely report the spill to the DEP, a clear violation of protocol. This is also the third incident to occur at the Patriot Coal facility since 2010. Although the Freedom Industries spill occurred just a month ago, many corporations and state legislators oppose new regulations on coal processing. Without enforceable Environment Protection Agency (EPA) regulations, these spills are going to continue poisoning our state, our drinking water, and our future.