Coal Slurry Spill Wreaks Havoc In WV


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Over one hundred thousand gallons of coal slurry is thought to have leaked into Fields Creek, blackening several miles of water in eastern Kanawha County, WV.

The state Department of Environmental Protection says that officials are investigating the spill.

The source of the leak is Patriot Coal, where a malfunction is said to have occurred inside a slurry valve. Janine Orf, a vice president at Patriot Coal, stated that containment efforts by the company began in the immediate aftermath of the spill and that cleanup efforts are ongoing.

EPA officials stated that the water in Kanawha County was safe to drink, although there are some warnings in place due to an unrelated spill that occurred in January.

That spill involved the leaking of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol or MCHM into the water. MCHM is a chemical that is used to wash coal and reduce ash ahead of its sale. That leak largely affected to Elk River. The January spill left upwards of 300,000 people unable to drink, bathe, or cook with water for about a week.

A federal grand jury is currently investigating the MCHM spill. CNN was informed that subpoenas have been sent out in relation to the January leak. The network tested water independently and found traces of MCHM in untested waters and tap water.

The coal slurry leak has local residents even more baffled and concerned.

U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller has the same doubts as his constituents over the cleanliness and safety of the water in West Virginia in the aftermath of these serious spills.

"I wouldn't drink that water if you paid me," he told NPR earlier in the week. "Nobody has said that it's safe."

As investigations into both spills continue, it's very likely that West Virginia natives will be far more inclined to rely on bottled water until affected and potentially water sources are deemed safe.

Image via Wikimedia Commons