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Coal waste may go into ground instead of lagoon


By Spencer Hunt
The Columbus Dispatch

Ohio environmental officials are considering a request by a mining company to pump coal waste into the ground instead of turning an eastern Ohio stream into a 1.85-billion-gallon lagoon.

In April, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency rejected Murray Energy’s plan to dam and fill Casey Run in Belmont County.

The EPA said the lagoon would threaten the pristine waters of nearby Captina Creek, the home of the endangered eastern hellbender salamander.

State officials said today that underground storage would be a temporary alternative to a lagoon. They said that in the long run, the company will likely need to dam a different Belmont County stream.

"We think there are some locations that would possibly be better," said Rich Milleson, an assistant director at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, which oversees mining.

The EPA says it supports underground storage as well as filters as short-term fixes.

Agency officials say they need to study another stream, called Long Run, before they could approve it for a lagoon.

Jack Shaner of the Ohio Environmental Council said injection and filters would be better than filling Casey Run or any other stream.

“They are the least of the messy options remaining,” Shaner said.

In a statement, Rob Murray, the company’s vice president, said filters and underground storage won’t eliminate the need for a new lagoon.

Murray Energy has said its only lagoon, located nearby on Perkins Run, is nearly full. When the EPA first rejected the company’s plan for a new lagoon, Murray said 10,000 mining jobs would be lost unless the agency approved it.

Murray Energy wrote that Long Run is too far from its mining operations.

For now, it wants to inject coal waste, called slurry, into abandoned portions of one of its mines. The Ohio EPA and state and federal mining officials must first approve the plan.

Among the issues is whether the injected slurry would threaten drinking water and streams. Milleson said the mine should be deep enough to protect both.

“We believe it’s doable,” he said.
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