Existing headwall of culvert that drains into Bingamon Creek.
Actions by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection to force the clean up of a coal-mining spill at a Harrison County coal refuse recovery site have gotten a little bit of media attention in recent weeks.
But there’s a whole lot more to this story, according to a new report put together by the U.S. Office of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Enforcement. And in taking its own actions at this site, OSMRE officials at the agency’s Charleston field office are taking advantage of a new Obama administration policy aimed at improving federal oversight of state mining regulators.
The 38-page report, available here, says that not only were there on-the-ground pollution problems at the Coal Valley LLC site near Enterprise, but also that the WVDEP played a role in those problems by issuing a permit that did not comply with the state’s federally approved program for regulating surface mining operations.
Among the more serious problems:
— The company initially got approval to dispose of runoff by dumping it through a borehole into an old underground mine that had already filled up — meaning there was really no place for the new discharge to go.
— OSM investigators found that the DEP-issued permit had no real concrete and feasible plan for how old coal waste materials from the site would be removed safely, without creating a dangerous new impoundment.
— There was no detailed analysis of the potential for activities of the site to cause localized flooding, and no plan for treating existing acid mine drainage at the site.
“Our big issue with this site is that they don’t have a plan that works for controlling runoff,” Roger Calhoun, director of OSMRE’s Charleston field office, told me this afternoon.