Months After the Sludge Spill
March 12, 2001
The nation's worst-ever blackwater spill happened on October
11, 2000 near Inez, Kentucky. Just after midnight 250 million
gallons of coal sludge, laced with coal cleaning chemicals
and the heavy metals present in coal, leaked from a coal
slurry impoundment at a Martin County Coal Company mountaintop
removal site. The sludge leaked into an underground mine
then burst out two portals into the Coldwater and Wolf Creeks.
Five months and one day later, OVEC volunteers and staff
returned to the site.
Some newspaper articles had contended the place was 80
percent cleaned up. Perhaps reporters responsible for those
stories hadnt actually bothered to visit the site.
Heres our first stop, on Wolf Creek at the site of
Wolf Creek Collieries coal prep plant. Two of six pumps
were working that day, pumping 6,200 gallons per minute
out of the still black creek, up to a previously inactive
20-acre impoundment owned by Martin County Coal.
Further up Wolf Creek a bulldozer delicately strips a stream
of all its vegetation, and gently turns over the sludge
so you cant see it anymore. Now thats clean.
More of the "cleanup" on Wolf Creek.
Bulldozer tracks and no vegetation left on Wolf Creek.
The stream banks have been scraped clean of vegetation and
cut nearly vertical -- a perfect set up for more erosion.
Thick sludge still lines the bank of Coldwater Creek.
Crews, without any protective gear, use high pressure hoses
to wash down the banks of Coldwater Creek.
A pump sucks the muck out of Coldwater Creek.
Inez resident Monroe Cassady watches the sludge pour out
the other end, into a holding pond on the Coldwater Creek
The holding pond.
Last updated on
Tuesday, May 29, 2001