The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

State News

June 29, 2013

DEP: Coal slurry dam still being assessed

MORGANTOWN — State regulators say engineers are still assessing how much coal slurry is in a potentially dangerous impoundment that went uncertified by a professional engineer for more than two years.

Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Kathy Cosco says Tetra Tech of Morgantown is currently surveying the North Hollow impoundment near Century in Barbour County.

Energy Marketing Co. and Dominick LaRosa of Potomac, Md., failed to respond to a U.S. Department of Labor lawsuit over the site and were ordered to pay $13,500 in fines. A federal Mine Safety and Health Administration spokeswoman said the fines had not been paid as of Friday, but it’s unclear what action the agency might take.

DEP revoked the impoundment’s permit and hired engineers to assess the structure and develop a plan to drain off the soupy wastewater.

The North Hollow impoundment is no longer in active use, but the Mine Safety and Health Administration has labeled it “high hazard,” meaning a failure would likely cause fatalities.

In court documents, the U.S. Department of Labor says MSHA does not believe there is an imminent danger, but it can’t be sure because there has been no certification by an engineer.

Cosco says the scope of the work should be agreed upon by the end of July.

Cosco said the current assessment is the first part of a two-stage pro-cess. In this one, the engineers will focus on developing a plan to repair a pond at the bottom of the impoundment that is used for draining off liquid, to ensure it’s structurally sound.

The second phase is soliciting bids and hiring a contractor to do the work. Cosco said that likely won’t happen until next year.

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