By Rachel Dove
LAUREL CREEK- Approximately 25 residents of the Laurel Creek community attended a meeting Tuesday evening at Laurel Lake State Park to express their concerns about leakage from an old mine near the lake, and of the possibility that a “blowout” could occur.
Representatives of Consol Energy, who inherited the site when they purchased the former Marrowbone Development mining properties, attended the informational meeting and those in attendance seemed to leave with a peace of mind they did not have prior to speaking with those who have been directly involved in alleviating the threat. Several employees with the Logan office of the state Department of Environmental Protection were also present and reiterated that the risk of a blowout no longer existed.
At the beginning of the meeting, another subject was broached that brought a few questions from the public. A DEP spokesman made his audience aware of a significant revision that will modify a mining permit now in place to include permission to bury heavy equipment tires used on the Laurel Creek site in the backfill. No tires that have traveled on the roadway will be buried, only those from the rock trucks and endloaders that serve that particular site. The process will include the huge tires being cut up or shredded, and concrete will be poured over them to prevent them from rising to the surface.
“Could they contaminate our water supply in the future?” asked Johnny Bailey, who lives near the lake. “Have they been inspected to make sure they don’t contain any toxins that can cause any problems down the line?”
Bailey and others were told that no problems with water contamination were foreseen, and all who were interested were invited to visit the Logan DEP office to view maps that show where the tires would be buried in the ground.
Getting back to the subject local residents were anxious to speak about, Jason Swann, an environmental engineer for Consol Energy; Keith Bartley, superintendent for Consol’s Miller’s Creek Operations; and Cathy St. Clair, Consol’s public affairs officer, answered all questions very thoroughly and explained what had been done, and was still being done, to alleviate the risk of future slides in the roadway at a location directly across from Laurel Lake.
“Consol Energy continues to work closely with the West Virginia DEP to monitor the slide area,” Bartley said. “We began remedial action last month. The property on which the slide occurred was acquired by Consol under a joint venture agreement in 2005 and was transferred solely to Consol Energy six years ago in 2008.”
“In order to address the slide, we have cut trees from the slope to reduce weight levels on the slide area, and built a ditch around the slide, lined it with plastic and installed a six-inch corrugated pipe to speed the flow of water through the new ditch,” Swann said. “We drilled a second dewatering hole to drain the old Marrowbone Mine works, which are located on the property
“The old mine works were previously mined in 1996, prior to Consol’s acquisition of the property,” Swann said. “We continue to have heavy equipment available to enable us to respond to any changes in the slide area in an effort to ensure that travel in that area is not impacted by any movement in the slide.
“What occurred at this location was not a blowout - it was leakage. As the water builds up inside the coal, it will eventually percolate to the outside,” Swann said. “We are monitoring the place that we drilled into everyday and the readings show a negative pressure at this site, meaning there is no water behind the dirt, debris and trees that slipped into the roadway.
“We’re confident that this site poses no danger to the public, but we will continue to monitor it and keep someone in the vicinity at times of inclement weather in case something should occur, but we do not see that happening,” Swann said.
Several residents who had attended an earlier meeting and expressed concerns for the safety and welfare of their families as well as their neighbors, failed to attend Tuesday’s meeting at the park.
Questions about this particular location should be directed to the Logan DEP office by calling 304-792-7250 or by visiting the office at the Fountain Place Mall in Logan. You also may contact Cathy St. Clair with Consol Energy directly at 276-489-8239.