Another spill: this time it’s coal sludge in West Virginia
by Jason Schwartz
February 12, 2014
© Wade Payne / Greenpeace
In both of those cases, the slow, bumbling, sheisty, shady, obfuscating reaction of coal companies and paid-off regulators provoked crises of confidence among regular people, who just want to know if their families are going to be OK.Now it's sludge? Really? On Tuesday, a pipe burst at Patriot Coal's Kanawha Eagle facility sometime between 2:30 and 5:30 PMthe alarm was broken so it took awhile for people to notice. The sludge jumped two containment walls and seeped into the stream, turning the water black.
Defying laws that require companies to report spills immediately, Patriot Coal didnt notify the West Virginia Dept. of Environmental Protection until the next morning.Even when Patriot finally started coming clean, it was still misreporting the contents of the slurry. Officials made claims that one component of their sludge was MCHM. But actually, the company had stopped using the chemical at that facility. It sounds like a simple blunder, but its not. Immediately following the spill Patriot and DEP were testing for MCHM and telling everybody they saw no signs of it. Obviously! The question is, what were they NOT testing for? And that telltale shadiness was in full effect. After Jimmy Gianato, director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management said the spill turned out to be much of nothing, the Secretary of the West Virginias DEP had to step in and correct him. This is a significant spill, he said.
When this much slurry goes into a stream, it wipes the stream out.The disregard for safety that Patriot has shownand that Big Coal has always shownis not surprising. But that doesnt mean it isnt disgusting. Perhaps there is a bright side to all of this: we're all getting a lesson on the many different ways coal can poison our water.