The Times West Virginian

West Virginia

December 6, 2012

Consol lays out recovery plan

For bulldozer operator sucked into Robinson Run slurry impoundment

MORGANTOWN — Consol Energy has two plans to try to recover a bulldozer operator sucked into the Robinson Run slurry impoundment last week, the first involving a 40-foot pipe and a dive team from Louisiana.

Vice President for Safety Lou Barletta gave no time frame for the recovery operations in a media briefing Wednesday but said the first plan involves welding together two 20-foot pipes and lowering them vertically into the massive slurry pond near Lumberport where the dozer has settled.

Divers would enter the pipe through an access door, with an air supply and communications to operations based on barges on the surface, while water jets installed at the bottom of the pipe push away silt. The divers would work by touch in dark, murky water to try to locate the driver so he can be removed.

At the divers’ request, Pennsylvania-based Consol has brought another dozer to the staging area so they can study it.

But Consol doesn’t know the exact orientation of the dozer, Barletta said, or whether the operator is still in the cab.

Spokeswoman Lynn Seay said the victim’s name is being withheld at the request of his family members, who are getting regular briefings on the recovery effort.

“We will wait until they feel ready and comfortable to share that information,” she said.

The family was brought to the site Friday night, the same day as the accident that two other workers survived when their pickup trucks also went into the pond.

Though a section of the embankment failed, the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration said there was no risk to the public because the structural problems were inside, not outside, the impoundment.

The pond encompasses about 78 acres and is estimated to hold between 1.6 billion and 1.9 billion gallons of wastewater, the Department of Environmental Protection said. That’s the equivalent of more than 2,500 Olympic-sized swimming pools, each of which holds about 600,000 gallons.

The impoundment is permitted to hold 3.4 billion gallons but typically operates well below that volume.

Slurry is a byproduct of washing coal to help it burn more cleanly.

Companies have disposed of the dirty water, silt and solids in various ways over the years, injecting it into worked-out underground mines, damming it in huge ponds like the one at Robinson Run and, less commonly, disposing of it with a dry filter-press process.

West Virginia has 114 coal slurry impoundments, according the MSHA. In all, there are 596 coal slurry impoundments in 21 states. Kentucky has the second-largest number with 104, while Illinois is third with 71.

Longwall mining operations at the Robinson Run mine were initially suspended after the accident, but Barletta said production resumed Wednesday. The preparation plant will also resume work soon, but the mined coal will be stockpiled until all safety precautions are in place, he said.

That involves erecting a boom across the pond with a curtain that descends about 4-5 feet into the water.

If the pipe dive to find the missing worker fails, Consol will resort to building what Barletta called a coffer dam. Sheet piling that weighs about 1 ton per section would be lowered into the pond around the dozer, walling it off.

Consol would then pump out silt but keep water inside the walled-off area to maintain a constant pressure on both sides. Divers would then be able to enter the water and search for the missing man.

The dozer is believed to be stuck 25-35 feet in the slurry, the silt and solids that settled beneath about 10-12 feet of dirty water.

Consol was working to raise the elevation of the impoundment when the accident happened, Barletta said, but the investigation into what went wrong only began Tuesday, so neither he nor regulators could comment on the possible cause.

The first goal is recovery, Barletta said. The second is to determine what happened “so we can learn from it and prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.”

1
Text Only
West Virginia
  • West Virginia chemical safe level following spill based on two weeks

    When federal officials decided what chemical levels West Virginians could safely consume in water tainted by a January spill, their standard assumed people would be exposed for two weeks, not 100-plus days.

    April 23, 2014

  • Some state Democrats flip to GOP

    As Republicans rally for more control in West Virginia’s long-time Democratic Legislature, a few Democrats have jumped ship to the GOP and are challenging former colleagues in midterm races.
    Republicans face their biggest election opportunity in decades in the House of Delegates, where a four-seat swing would put them in power for the first time in 85 years.

    April 20, 2014

  • Gee’s move could save Ohio State millions

    Ohio State University expects to save millions of dollars because former president Gordon Gee is giving up part of his retirement package as he becomes president of West Virginia University for the second time.

    April 19, 2014

  • W.Va. AG court filings: Dismiss gun law question

    The attorney general says a court challenge should be dismissed over whether West Virginians can bring guns to city recreational facilities that hold school events.
    Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s filings Thursday argue the city of Charleston shouldn’t receive court guidance on how to implement a state gun law.

    April 18, 2014

  • Energy-state Dems split from Obama

    Scrapping to keep a West Virginia Senate seat Democratic in a state that’s sprinted to the right, Natalie Tennant is counting on her allegiance to the coal industry to separate herself from an unpopular President Barack Obama.
    Her approach reflects common Democratic strategy and tactics this midterm election year in energy-producing states that lean Republican: Sen. Mary Landrieu is vying for a fourth term representing Louisiana; Alaska Sen. Mark Begich is running for re-election for the first time; and Kentucky Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes wants to replace Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

    April 17, 2014

  • Official: $2M in chemical spill costs reimbursable

    Public agencies and nonprofits that helped after a Jan. 9 chemical leak into the water supply could receive $2 million in reimbursements for their emergency work, a West Virginia homeland security official said.
    Federal and state emergency officials briefed fire departments, paramedics and other government groups Wednesday on how to recoup costs.

    April 17, 2014

  • Manchin urges mines to speak out for coal

    The Democratic senator leading the battle against the White House’s strategy to fight climate change urged the mining industry on Tuesday to speak out about coal’s role in providing affordable, reliable electricity to the country to help combat strict new emissions rules for coal-fired power plants.

    April 16, 2014

  • Many schools already meet new mandate for breakfast

    Many West Virginia public schools have changed the way they serve breakfast to students ahead of a requirement that goes into effect in September.

    April 14, 2014

  • W.Va. grower promotes unmodified feed corn

    Lyle Tabb is hoping that his non-genetically modified corn will take off with farmers who can charge top dollar for “all natural” eggs.
    Genetically modified or GMO corn has greatly simplified the process of getting rid of weeds, but has also substantially increased the amount of a chemical call glyphosate.

    April 13, 2014

  • Geologists link small quakes to fracking

    Geologists in Ohio have for the first time linked earthquakes in a geologic formation deep under the Appalachians to hydraulic fracturing, leading the state to issue new permit conditions Friday in certain areas that are among the nation’s strictest.
    A state investigation of five small tremors last month in the Youngstown area, in the Appalachian foothills, found the injection of sand and water that accompanies hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the Utica shale may have increased pressure on a small, unknown fault, said State Oil & Gas Chief Rick Simmers. He called the link “probable.”

    April 12, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads