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Plant Faces Fines In Slurry Spill

Wed, 05/21/2014 - 11:29am

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- West Virginia environmental regulators have proposed more than $21,000 in fines for a Kanawha County plant that spilled coal slurry into a creek.

The fines are for three citations issued after 108,000 gallons of slurry spilled Feb. 11 from Patriot Coal's Kanawha Eagle preparation plant. The spill near Winifrede affected six miles of Fields Creek and some material flowed one-half mile into the Kanawha River before dissipating.

State Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Tom Aluise told the Charleston Daily Mail (http://bit.ly/R8Pc1T) that the company is contesting about $20,000 in penalties associated with two orders issued after the spill.

One order stopped all work except cleanup at the plant. The other was a notice of violation stemming from discolored water entering the Kanawha River during cleanup on Feb. 19. The additional release into the Kanawha occurred after snow melted and raised water levels in Fields Creek, stirring up silt at the bottom of the creek. The creek overran some dams used to slow down water and catch slurry particles before they hit the Kanawha River.

Aluise said the company has yet to contest another violation notice. He said meetings will be held between the DEP and the company concerning the contested penalties.

Aluise said Kanawha Eagle also could face additional fines under the federal Clean Water Act.

A Patriot Coal spokeswoman didn't immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

The DEP had blamed the spill on ice buildup that tore a gasket around a valve. Slurry pumps continued operating for several hours.

The nearest public water system was 115 miles downstream in Huntington.

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