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EPA ISSUES ADMINISTRATIVE ORDER TO MARTIN COUNTY COAL CORPORATION FOR ALLEGED VIOLATIONS OF THE CLEAN WATER ACT

Release Date: 03/07/2001
Contact Information: Carl Terry, media relations, (404) 562-8325
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today that Martin County Coal Corporation (MCCC) has entered into an Administrative Order on Consent (Order) with the Agency for alleged violations of the Clean Water Act (CWA) which resulted from the sudden release of approximately 250 million gallons of coal slurry into rivers and streams in Kentucky and West Virginia. The Order ensures a sustained and appropriate level of cleanup that will make sure the impacted rivers and streams are fully restored.

The Order requires MCCC to contain the release of coal slurry into the environment; remove waste materials that have been discharged; restore the impacted rivers and streams and adjacent areas; and offset any temporary or permanent impacts to the environment. This includes restoring the stream and river beds and replanting the impacted adjacent areas. Martin County Coal also is required to reimburse costs incurred by EPA during the response and restoration action. Since the release impacted areas in EPA Region 3 as well as EPA Region 4, both Regions have worked closely with representatives from West Virginia and Kentucky during the development of the Consent Order.

Following an approach first used in response to the Exxon Valdez oil spill, a Stream Assessment and Cleanup Survey Team, led by EPA, will develop the appropriate cleanup and restoration actions for the impacted areas. The team will include several EPA technical members from Regions 3 and 4, representatives from Kentucky, West Virginia and MCCC.

MCCC operates a coal processing facility in Martin County, Kentucky. The facility washes coal to remove the impurities and uses a coal slurry impoundment to store the wastewater and waste materials. On Wednesday, October 11, 2000, the impoundment owned and operated by MCCC, had a sudden breach and millions of gallons of waste material, including coal mine refuse slurry, spilled into nearby waters. The spill entered Wolf Creek, Rockcastle Creek, and the Big Sandy River watershed. Potable and industrial water supply service was disrupted in communities along tributaries of the Big Sandy River in Kentucky and West Virginia as a result of the spill, but was reestablished through the efforts of MCCC and EPA.

MCCC has cooperated in the cleanup and, to date, MCCC=s response activities have resulted in the removal of waste material deposits from 15 miles of stream beds, banks, and flood plain areas in the Coldwater Fork and Wolf Creek watersheds.