The Times West Virginian

West Virginia

June 10, 2007

State now moving on mine shelters

West Virginia coal mines are set to begin installing underground refuge chambers in the coming months even though the federal government has yet to begin testing the shelters.

Plans are moving forward for full compliance with new mine safety laws requiring underground shelters in the Mountain State. None of the approved models has been used in coal mines before nor has any undergone practical environment testing using human test subjects. But engineers have signed off on the specifications and anticipated performance for each shelter.

The United Mine Workers of America supports moving forward, but the labor union’s top health and safety administrator said the group’s posture is based on information it has gotten from others.

“We’re going forward based on what everyone else has told us,” said Dennis O’Dell, administrator of the UMWA Department of Occupational Health and Safety. “Based on the information we were presented, we believe these will protect miners. If, in fact, there is a serious question about whether these actually will increase the health and safety of miners or possibly be dangerous, then they should stop and do additional testing.”

NIOSH Testing

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health is finalizing its protocol for testing refuge chambers at its Lake Lynn underground coal mine research laboratory.

Once the testing can begin, NIOSH scientists expect it will take about one week per unit, although many West Virginia coal mines already have placed orders for refuge chambers because of deadlines established in new mine safety rules.

The draft research protocol has been circulated among scientists and stakeholders, such as the West Virginia Mine Safety Technology Task Force, the UMWA and the National Mining Association.

“We asked them to have their comments in by June 8 ... and early next week, we’ll work our way through the changes. We hope to have the final protocol done by the end of next week,” said Dr. Eric Bauer, senior mining engineer at NIOSH.

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West Virginia
  • Symptoms match with spilled chemical

    For two weeks following a January chemical spill into the public water supply, hundreds of West Virginians examined in emergency rooms had ailments consistent with exposure to the chemical, health officials said Wednesday.
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    April 24, 2014

  • 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

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    April 20, 2014

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    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

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    April 18, 2014

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    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

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