Last Friday, Nov. 30th, brought more terrible news to the West Virginia coalfields. A massive collapse at CONSOL's Nolans Run Impoundment in Harrison County just west of Shinnston sent 2 engineers to the hospital and a bulldozer operator to the bottom of the slurry pond. The collapse occurred during construction to expand the 2 billion gallon impoundment by raising the embankment more than 40’ above the natural ridgeline.
This tragedy only underscores the serious concerns about impoundment regulation and dam safety that citizens’ groups have been raising for years. Won’t you take a moment to tell the administration we need stronger action to protect workers, downstream communities and the environment from dangerous sludge ponds?
Nolan’s Run Impoundment before failure Nolan’s Run Impoundment after failure (courtesy of WVDEP)
According to Dennis Boyles of the Office of Surface Mining, CONSOL had “overextended” in the rush to expand the impoundment. The safety of the method of construction permitted at this and many other impoundments has been strongly questioned by noted dam safety expert Jack Spadaro. And this isn’t the first time this impoundment has had stability problems. That fact that the WV DEP found no problems in their inspections only 6 weeks before the incident calls into serious question the agency’s ability to do their part to enforce dam regulations. Other preparation plants in West Virginia have installed filter presses to dewater their coal sludge and extend the life of their impoundments without the need for dangerous expansions.
Demand a moratorium on the dangerous construction method, federal enforcement of dam safety, and the universal installation of filter press technology today!