Coal Tattoo

MSHA seeks to close troubled slurry impoundment

Vicki Smith over at The Associated Press has a pretty interesting story out this morning:

The U.S. Department of Labor wants a federal judge to order the immediate shutdown of a potentially dangerous West Virginia coal slurry impoundment it says hasn’t been certified by a professional engineer for two years.

In a filing in federal court, U.S. Attorney William Ihlenfeld argued Thursday that Energy Marketing Co. Inc. and owner Dominick LaRosa of Potomac, Md., are flouting federal law, ignoring violations and fines, and putting the public at risk.

The story goes on:

The 101 North Hollow Coal Refuse Impoundment is near Century in Barbour County and is associated with the non-producing Century 101 mine. The Mine Safety and Health Administration has labeled it “high hazard,” meaning a failure would likely cause fatalities.

MSHA says it was not certified for structural integrity as required by law in either 2011 or 2012. MSHA records also show EMCI has operated the mine and impoundment since Jan. 1, 2009, and has been cited for problems about two dozen times.

I’ve posted a copy of the Labor Department’s court filing here. Reading the story, I couldn’t help but think about how the West Virginia Coal Association  accused the federal Office of Surface Mining of “sensationalism” when OSM released its recent report on questions about the safety of some of West Virginia’s coal slurry impoundments. Some readers may recall this line from the coal lobby:

The West Virginia Coal Association believes that continuous progress has been made by the regulatory agencies and the coal industry to improve the design and operation of coal refuse impoundments across the state.   These structures are some of the most highly engineered and regulated structures found anywhere in the world, with detailed engineering and geo-technical analysis associated with their design, operation and maintenance.