DEP modifies order against Kanawha Eagle Prep Plant - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

UPDATE: Notice of Violation issued to Kanawha Eagle Prep Plant

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The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection has issued another Notice of Violation (NOV) to Patriot Coal's Kanawha Eagle Prep Plant.

The NOV was issued by the WVDEP Division of Mining and Reclamation after a rapid rise in stream levels in Fields Creek Wednesday stirred up silt settled in the creek bed and resulted in discolored water entering the Kanawha River. The rise in stream levels was attributed to rapid snow melt.
 
The NOV requires the company to cease all activity that may contribute to conditions not allowable in state waters. The company must provide a durable surface on all roadways and evaluate all sediment control structures for retention time. The company must also submit a work plan detailing all cleanup efforts and management of high-flow situations. In addition, the work plan is to include scheduled daily monitoring of Fields Creek.
 
Patriot Coal's ability to respond to the high-flow situation Wednesday was hindered by the company's concerns for the safety of its workers in the swift-water conditions.
 
Earlier this week, the WVDEP modified an Imminent Harm Cessation Order, issued to Kanawha Eagle following last week's slurry spill, to a NOV.

* * *

Previous story (Feb. 19):

The stop-work order at a Kanawha County coal preparation plant that spilled 108,000 gallons of slurry into a creek last week has been modified, and work may resume there.

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection said Feb. 19 that it has modified the imminent harm cessation order issued to Patriot Coal's Kanawha Eagle Prep Plant to a notice of violation (NOV).

The imminent harm cessation order was issued shortly after the Feb. 11 spill, which was caused by a problem with a valve along the plant's slurry pipeline. It resulted in the slurry spill into Fields Creek, a tributary of the Kanawha River. The order halted all work at the prep plant near the community of Winifrede until the company eliminated the potential for further pollution.

In modifying the imminent harm order, the DEP said it 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 notice of violation mandates the company to:

  • continue the cleanup of settled slurry in the bed of Fields Creek;
  • take measures to restore the hydrologic balance of the stream; and
  • ensure no discolored or contaminated water reaches the Kanawha River during cleanup efforts.

The notice of violation 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 about six miles of Fields Creek. Sampling data reported to the DEP 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.

The DEP said sampling done Feb. 13 downstream in the Kanawha River showed 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 was at acceptable levels, with the exception of slightly elevated levels of aluminum, which can be attributed to materials being used in the remediation process, the DEP said.

Sampling data from Feb. 11 also showed 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 DEP said.

The slurry spill remains under investigation, the DEP said.