29 May 2009

DEP Blocks New Coal Slurry Injections in W.Va.

Coal operators cannot pump slurry -- a mix of ore, dirt and chemicals from mining -- beneath the ground in West Virginia beyond the 15 sites or so sites where it is now allowed.

As The Associated Press reports, the Department of Environmental Protection issued a moratorium on the practice Wednesday, after releasing "a largely inconclusive 80-page report to the Legislature on the effect of coal slurry injection on water quality."

As AP previously reported, the report was ordered by lawmakers in 2006 but had missed three deadlines as of February.

While the Department of Health and Human Resources must now conduct its phase of the study, DEP's tests "at four slurry injection sites found chemicals, including some used to remove impurities from coal, showed up in underground pools," AP's Tim Huber writes, citing the report.

"But none showed up in surface or groundwater samples taken during the site-specific investigation," the article continues. "Tests also turned up elevated levels of strontium, which is a metal, along with sodium, sulfate and high alkalinity, but again the report said it's difficult to tell whether slurry injection, mining or other activities caused the levels."

Despite such results, DEP Secretary Randy Huffman ordered the moratorium because "the study did point out areas where improvements can be made."

DEP issued a statement on the moratorium and the report, which it has posted along with appendices.

Others with coverage include The Charleston Gazette.

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