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Coal ooze mars KY

BY SUSAN KIM | Inez, KY | December 12, 2000

Two months after 250 million gallons of coal slurry spilled into eastern Kentucky waterways, the oozy gook still mars Kentucky waterways. The Environmental Protection Agency has estimated cleanup could take three more months and will end up costing millions of dollars.

Some 520 people are working on the cleanup, according to Bill Marcum of Martin County Coal. The spill happened when an overburdened 72-acre storage pond used by Martin County Coal collapsed on Oct. 11.

Excavator-type equipment is being used to clean the slurry out of creeks. The sludge is then put into large trucks and dumped into holding pits constructed by Martin County Coal, according to John Gilbert of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The mine has been operating at a reduced level, said Gilbert, while the coal processing plant has been shut down.

"I think it's going to take a year to get it cleaned up," said Karen Spivey, spokesperson for the Christian Appalachian Project. "A lot of land and property has been affected.

"Most residents in that area work for the coal company. It's a sad thing," she said.

After occurring near the town of Inez, the spill impacted Coldwater Creek, Wolf Creek, and Tug Fork. Coal slurry is a semi-liquid mixture left over after mined coal is chemically washed.

Residents who rely on rivers and tributaries for their drinking water were without water immediately after the spill. Forced to close off intake pipes, 10 counties relied on water that was trucked in.

Gov. Paul Patton declared a state of emergency when the sludge seeped into two streams that flow into the Big Sandy River and ultimately into the Ohio River.

The Christian Appalachian Project distributed water to affected residents through local churches and community centers. The Perrier Group of America, working with AmeriCares, donated 195,000 bottles of water to 10 Kentucky counties.

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