Martin County coal slurry spill
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The Martin County coal slurry spill was an accident that occurred after midnight on October 11, 2000 when the bottom of a coal slurry impoundment owned by Massey Energy in Martin County, Kentucky broke into an abandoned underground mine below. The slurry came out of the mine openings, sending an estimated 306,000,000 US gallons (1.16×109 l; 255,000,000 imp gal) of slurry down two tributaries of the Tug Fork River. By morning, Wolf Creek was oozing with the black waste; on Coldwater Fork, a 10-foot (3.0 m) wide stream became a 100-yard (91 m) expanse of thick slurry.
The spill, which contained arsenic and mercury, killed everything in the water. It was over five feet deep in places and covered nearby residents' yards. The spill polluted hundreds of miles (300–500 km) of the Big Sandy River and its tributaries and the Ohio River. The water supply for over 27,000 residents was contaminated, and all aquatic life in Coldwater Fork and Wolf Creek was killed. The spill was 30 times larger than the Exxon Valdez oil spill (12 million US gallons (45,000 m3)) and one of the worst environmental disasters ever in the southeastern United States, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency. The spill was exceeded in volume by the Kingston Fossil Plant coal fly ash slurry spill in 2008.
U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, wife of Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), oversaw the Mine Safety and Health Administration at the time. In 2002, a federal penalty of $5,600 was levied against Massey Energy, and was subsequently paid. When the Bush Administration came into power, they cut the investigation short, as Massey Energy was a generous contributor to the Republican Party.
Massey Energy spent $46 million in cleanup efforts and an additional $3 million in local fines and reported that "some citizens say the creek is cleaner now than before the spill."
In 2005 Appalshop filmmaker Robert Salyer released a documentary entitled Sludge, chronicling the continuing story of the Martin County disaster, the resulting federal investigation, and the looming threat of coal slurry ponds throughout the coalfield region. In the wake of the Kingston Fossil Plant coal fly ash slurry spill, Appalshop provided a web stream of Sludge for a limited time.
- Sealey, Geraldine (October 23, 2000). "Sludge Spill Pollutes Ky., W. Va. Waters". ABC News. Retrieved 2014-06-06.
- Sludge: a documentary by Robert Salyer Archived 2013-01-07 at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 2014-06-06.
-  Retrieved 2018-02-01.
- "10 Years Later: Martin County, Ky., Coal Sludge Spill – Video". Dailymotion. Dailymotion. 2010.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-01-06. Retrieved 2008-12-31.
- Sludge slinging - article about mining engineer Jack Spadaro who has dedicated his life to preventing coal sludge spills
- A Toxic Cover-Up? - article about Jack Spadaro and the Martin County sludge spill.
- Internal Review of MSHA's Actions At the Big Branch Refuse Impoundment.