WVDEP issues notice to Marfork Coal

Jessica Farrish, The Register-Herald, Beckley, W.Va.
·3 min read

Feb. 27—West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection issued a notice of violations to Marfork Coal Company on Thursday after a broken pipe led to coal-laden water being discharged into a creek that runs through a residential area of Raleigh County, WVDEP Acting Communications Director Terry Fletcher reported.

A biological stream assessment and stream cleanup progress inspection was being conducted Friday, Fletcher added.

A number of people living on Horse Creek Road near Naoma reported that Horse Creek, which flows from Marfork, had turned black on Thursday afternoon. Some made posts to Facebook, and Fletcher said they also reported the black water to WVDEP at about 3 p.m. Thursday.

"The inspector was on-site shortly after 4 p.m. and found remnants of blackwater discharge into Horse Creek of Marsh Fork of Coal River," said Fletcher.

When WVDEP inspectors investigated at Marfork Coal Company, they found that a pipe which picks up water from an underground mine and pumps it into three sediment ponds had broken outside of the mine belt entry.

The break allowed coal fine-laden water to discharge beside the belt line, said Fletcher. The discharge bypassed the sediment ponds by following a roadway next to the beltline.

Fletcher said Marfork had already stopped the underground pump and discharge from the pipe by the time state inspectors had arrived. Marfork employees were in the process of pipe repair and cleanup.

"The WVDEP issued notice of violations for failure to pass all discharge through a sediment-control device and for conditions not allowable in the stream," said Fletcher.

Bart Peters, 47, of Horse Creek Road, said a neighbor had walked on a bridge that runs over the small creek on Thursday afternoon and had notified him and other neighbors of the black water. She also made a post to Facebook, with a video showing the black water.

"Stuff like that happens every now and again, especially when you live out in coal country like we do, but that was a little bit worse than usual," Peters said on Friday. "It was still black hours later, when I got home."

He said the mine is about three miles from his house.

"Everybody that lives around here, we all grew up around coal mines, so when you see something like that, you know exactly where it's coming from," he said. "Years and years ago, it happened a lot more, and people didn't really say much about it.

"Nowadays, when you see it happen, you know it's pure negligence," he said. "I know nobody's perfect. In my job, I make mistakes. Everybody does.

"But when you're dealing with something like that, you should have something better set up than the people here to have to tell you, 'Hey, your water's black.'

"There should be somebody, somewhere, they could employ that that's their only job, to make sure the people that live around here, that's always lived around here, don't have to deal with that stuff."

Peters emphasized that he is not angry with the coal mine operators or the coal miners in the area.

"I don't think anybody down this way has any bad feelings towards the coal mine or the coal miners," he said. "They do provide jobs down here.

"If it wasn't for the mines, nobody'd be working down here. I just wish they'd find a solution.

"I wish it could be prevented," he said. "It would make life a lot better."