WVDEP investigates black water discharge in Raleigh County

Raleigh County
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A black water discharge from an abandoned mine in Raleigh County is under investigation by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WV DEP).  The discharge was first reported on Saturday, March 2, 2019.

According to the DEP, the discharge appears in Berry Branch of Winding Gulf.  It begins near the community of Helen. The black discoloration was seen in the Guyandotte River downstream of the community of Allen Junction.  That is about seven miles from the point of origin.

Officials said the discoloration is from coal dust being carried though a “pre-law” mine.  That is defined as an abandoned mine which ceased operation before 1977 and has no responsible party.

A release from the DEP exlpained the situation:

“Water flow through underground mines can change due to geologic failures or fluctuations in the amount of water in the mine.  It is not uncommon for flushing to happen when water-flow patterns also change.  Changes in flow patterns can cause stagnant portions of the mine pool to move, which can rseult in fllushing of material that has accumulated over time.”

Staff of the WVDEP have found neighboring mining operations with permits to be in compliance and are not contributing to the discoloration.  They will also expand the area of investigation beyond those mines immediately adjacent to the abandoned mine complex.  

Investigators said the discoloration has decreased since is was first reported.  Water samples were taken for analysis and impacts to aquatic life are being evaluated by biologists.

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