Front Porch Blog

WV agency released its long-awaited study on underground injection of coal sludge

This just in from the Charleston Gazette (story by Ken Ward Jr.):

Sludge Safety Project volunteers gathered at the West Virginia State Capitol during the 2009 WV Legislative Session.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State regulators on Thursday issued a moratorium on new permits for the injection of coal slurry into underground mine voids, a practice that residents of several West Virginia coal counties have complained is polluting their drinking water.

Randy Huffman, secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection, announced the moratorium at the same time he released a long-awaited DEP study of the issue mandated by lawmakers.

In a news release, Huffman emphasized that DEP’s study did not find damage to surface or groundwater quality caused by coal slurry alone. But the agency’s report made it clear that DEP lacked enough information to really provide much of an answer.

“Based on a review of the baseline data from the [underground injection control] and mining permits, there are insufficient surface and groundwater monitoring sample sites to determine effects from slurry injection on surface groundwater,” the report said. “Most of the assessment sites lacked detailed information on mine pool conditions and adequate monitoring of the quantity and quality of the mine pool associated with the injection activities.”

DEP officials did not indicate how long the moratorium would last, but the report and the agency’s release spelled out some improvements for any future permit reviews.

Along with the moratorium, the DEP study recommended site-specific groundwater monitoring during the injection process, requiring a full baseline water survey for organic materials and heavy metals for any new permits, and monitoring wells within a half-mile of the mine pools receiving slurry injection.

Read the rest of the article…

And here is the official statement from the Sludge Safety Project, the coalition that relentlessly lobbied the WV State Legislature asking for the study in the first place. They made it happen:

Donetta Blankenship holds up jars of well water contaminated by underground coal sludge injections.

We’re very pleased the DEP has admitted that slurry is dangerous while only testing 4 slurry injection sites and 2 prep plants. Although the DEP is making some progress by implementing a 2 yr moratorium on new slurry injection sites, the DEP’s recommendations are inadequate because people are going to be left with the same health issues for as long as companies are allowed to inject slurry under existing permits. The solution the DEP has come up with is inadequate because it does not stop the injection of slurry going on right now. There is one solution to fixing the problem of coal slurry contamination in West Virginia : a ban on all slurry. This solution would cost companies a mere 50 cents to one dollar per ton– pennies for the sake of saving human lives. We will continue to work with the West Virginia legislature to protect West Virginians from water poisoned by coal slurry.

– Maria Lambert, Prenter, Boone County
Representative of the Sludge Safety Project




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