CHARLESTON, WV – The Office of Abandoned Mine Lands and Reclamation
(AML) at the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) is
actively investigating black water discharging from an abandoned mine. An abandoned mine (pre-law mine), as defined
by the Surface Mine Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA), is a mine that ceased
operation prior to 1977 and has no responsible party.
The black water discharge originates near the community of
Helen in Raleigh County. The receiving
stream is Berry Branch of Winding Gulf. Black discoloration has been observed
within the Guyandotte River, downstream to the community of Allen Junction,
approximately seven miles from the point of origin.
Initial investigation indicates the discoloration is a
result of coal fines (coal dust) being carried through the pre-law mine. Water flow through underground mines can
change due to geologic failures or fluctuations in the mine pool (amount of
water in the mine). It is not uncommon
for flushing to occur when water-flow patterns also change. Changes in flow patterns can cause stagnant
portions of the mine pool to move, which can result in flushing of material
that has accumulated over time.
WVDEP staff have investigated adjacent permitted mining
operations and found those mines to be in compliance, and not contributing to
the discoloration. Staff will continue
to expand the area of investigation beyond operations immediately adjacent to
the abandoned mine complex.
Water samples have been collected for laboratory analysis.
Impacts to aquatic life are being evaluated by WVDEP biologists. Additionally, discoloration has decreased
since first reported on 3/2/2019. WVDEP
staff will continue monitoring the discharge until baseline conditions return.
For more WVDEP news and information, go to www.dep.wv.gov.
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