Black water from Pioneer Fuels’ Horse Creek Surface Mine spilled into the Clear Fork today, polluting over thirteen miles of the river. The once-bustling city of Whitesville lies directly downstream of the spill, as does the Boone Raleigh PSD Water Plant, which is the source of drinking water for the town and surrounding areas.
At approximately 2 p.m. the black water was seen 2.5 miles up Clear Fork Road, and continued to pour into the Big Coal River at Whitesville for several hours afterward. A Coal River Mountain Watch volunteer called the spill into the WVDEP around 4:20 p.m. The state agency later responded that it had been aware of the spill since 8 a.m. and that the black water output appeared to have stopped. It was verbally confirmed with WVDEP that the spill was sourced from the Horse Creek surface mine, owned by Pioneer Fuels.
The Horse Creek mine has had similar incidents in the past, including a cessation order issued by the WVDEP in July 2007.
While the DEP claims that the spill is over, we do not know what chemicals have already leached into the drinking water supply.
“While we appreciate the DEP’s uncharacteristically swift action to halt this pollution, the minuscule penalties that they normally assess have not been effective in protecting our water sources,” said Vernon Haltom, co-director of Coal River Mountain Watch. “Our state government needs to begin making the protection of citizens’ safety and water sources a higher priority than coal company profits.”