The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) has modified an Imminent Harm Cessation Order, issued to Patriot Coal’s Kanawha Eagle Prep Plant following last week’s slurry spill, to a Notice of Violation (NOV).
The Imminent Harm Cessation Order was issued by the WVDEP Division of Mining and Reclamation shortly after the Feb. 11 spill, which was caused by a problem with a valve along the plant’s slurry pipeline. It resulted in approximately 108,000 gallons of slurry entering Fields Creek, a tributary of the Kanawha River. The Order halted all work at the Winifrede prep plant until the company eliminated the potential for further pollution.
In modifying the Imminent Harm Order, the WVDEP is allowing Kanawha Eagle to begin testing new control measures the company has put in place as a result of the spill. Among those measures are two external flow meters on the slurry line that are tied into the operator’s control room. The meters record slurry flow rates from the prep plant to the refuse area and are designed to alert company officials of problems. The equipment has alarm capabilities and an automatic shut-off built in if a malfunction occurs in the system. The company also installed remote cameras on the slurry line that will provide a live video feed to the control room.
The NOV mandates the company continue the cleanup of settled slurry in the bed of Fields Creek; to take measures to restore the hydrologic balance of the stream; and to ensure no discolored or contaminated water reaches the Kanawha River during cleanup efforts. The NOV also instructs the company to prepare and submit a permit revision containing a transportation plan for the slurry line, including a plan for secondary containment for the entire line from plant to discharge points.
The spill affected roughly six miles of Fields Creek. Sampling data reported to the WVDEP by the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) indicated no changes in water quality in testing conducted from Saturday, Feb. 15, through Tuesday, Feb. 18, at Huntington’s intake, the closest surface water public intake downstream of the spill site. And WVDEP sampling conducted Feb. 13 downstream in the Kanawha River shows all parameters at acceptable levels for both warm water fisheries and public water supplies. Water tested within the impacted reach of Fields Creek on Feb. 13 also is at acceptable levels, with the exception of slightly elevated levels of aluminum, which can be attributed to materials being used in the remediation process.
Sampling data from Feb. 11 also shows non-detect levels of the coal-cleaning chemical MCHM, which the company said it phased out in mid-January.
Following the spill, the company installed check dams, or barriers, throughout Fields Creek in an attempt to slow the flow of the stream, drop solids and clear the water. The dams, which include rock, hay bales and silt fencing, are still in place while workers pump solids from the stream bed using vac trucks. The creek is now running clear.
The slurry spill remains under investigation.