Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Two trips to the Brushy Fork Slurry impoundment

I took a trip up to see the Brushy Fork Impoundment this week.  This impoundment is designed to hold 9 billion gallons of sludge and is permitted to be 900 feet high (which is higher than the New River Gorge bridge).  

Why did I head up?  Permit revision for the Bee Tree Surface Mine will allow overburden to be dumped on the Brushy Fork impoundment.    This impoundment already is situated over top of underground mine shafts, like the coal refuse dam that broke in Inez, Ky, in 2000.  It sounded to me like blasting in close proximity to such a large slurry impoundment was a pretty stupid idea. 

The black to the left is the dam itself.  To the right are the two forks of Brushy fork, which is a tributary into little Marsh Fork, then into Marsh Fork, and then into Coal River.

Here you can see a dozer working to compact additional fill material onto to top of the dam.

Looking down the holler, the way the slurry would flow if there was a collapse of the dam, such as in the 1972 Buffalo Creek disaster.

Check out the emergency warning plan for yourself.  The plan states that over 990 people would be killed if this dam collapsed.  Not taken into account, however, are the effects of a "breakthrough:"  meaning the bottom of the impoundment would break and slurry would break into underground mineshafts.

A picture on the way down of a mountain that is still beautiful and not blasted apart YET.

Check out more information about slurry impoundments, as well as updates regarding a coal impoundment study.

Brushy Fork:  From the Other Side  

 We returned a few weeks later to the spot where blasting is supposed to start.   The above picture is from the opposite side of the impoundment, with the forks to the left and the dam to the right outside of the picture frame.

Here Matt and Becky are standing directly on top of the place where the blasting is supposed to begin on the Bee Tree MTR permit.  

Here are some beautiful pictures of Coal River Mountain that I took along the way:

Here is the view from Wristen Knob...beautiful!

Matt and Becky up on top of the Knob.  Becky is staying warm and bright in Bacon's coveralls!

This was my first time riding a four wheeler.  It was addictively fun.

By Jen Osha

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