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Murray Energy Turns Captina Creek Into Coal Sludge River in Ohio

Shannon Fisk

Posted October 3, 2010

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What is it with dirty energy companies spilling pollution into our nation’s waters this year?  First it was BP’s massive disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.  Then, a few months ago an Enbridge pipeline carrying tar sands oil burst, spilling nearly a million gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River, and more recently a pipeline burst in Romeoville, Illinois spilled 250,000 gallons of oil.  And now, in Ohio, Murray Energy’s American Century Mine has leaked large quantities of coal mine slurry into Captina Creek, which is an exceptionally high quality water that as the last breeding population in Ohio of the especially cool creature known as the Eastern Hellbender Salamander.

Our friends at the Sierra Club were on the scene and filmed the footage below showing the extent of the spill, including a large field covered in coal sludge and Captina Creek turned black for miles:


Reports so far suggest that Ohio EPA and the Ohio DNR have done a good job at responding to the Murray Energy spill quickly and effectively.  As we begin to think about the lessons learned from this spill, however, there are three important points to keep in mind:

1.       Murray Energy Is a Repeat Offender – Today’s spill is just another in a series of problems at Murray’s American Century and Powhatan No. 6 coal mines in Belmont County.  Since 2000, Ohio EPA has issued at least four violation notices to Murray for leaks from the coal slurry impoundment for these mines.  One such spill lasted three days and turned 22 miles of Captina Creek black, while another spill lasted two days and impacted 20 miles of Captina Creek.  Given this history, it is important that Ohio EPA and Ohio DNR fully enforce the law and aggressively pursue all available and appropriate mitigation, restoration, and penalty actions against Murray.   

2.       Murray Energy Should Not Be Allowed to Create a Second Coal Slurry Impoundment: Murray Energy currently has pending before Ohio EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit applications to bury 5.6 miles of Casey Run, a high quality headwater tributary to Captina Creek, in order to make a second coal slurry impoundment for its mines.  Ohio EPA rejected the proposal in 2008, but Murray Energy came back to the agency with a slightly modified proposal.  Today’s spill confirms that Ohio EPA should stand firm and reject the request once again.

3.       We Need To Move Away From Dirty Energy Sources: The Murray Energy spill today illustrates once again the significant impacts that we experience from our society’s over-reliance on dirty energy sources such as coal.  This spill should be a clarion call for why Ohio and the U.S. should pursue energy efficiency and cleaner energy alternatives that would create jobs and minimize environmental impacts, rather than continuing to rely on dirty energy.

Coal mining companies should not be allowed to turn exceptionally high quality waters such as Captina Creek into rivers of flowing coal sludge.  Let’s make sure that Murray Energy is required to clean up its mess and not allowed to create a second impoundment, and that we move toward cleaner energy alternatives as we move forward.

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Lindy BarnesOct 4 2010 12:25 PM

What is it going to take to get the politicians in this country - the people who are supposed to be protecting this country and all of its resources - to stop bending over to the large corporations and their money? What is it going to take to stop our politicians from being "bought"?

I am appalled at the devastation that has been allowed to happen in this country in just the past few months alone. Worse yet, it doesn't seem to do any good to vote new leaders into office - things have gotten worse, not better.

President Obama promised clean water and clean air. Now that he is in office he talks about "clean coal". This is a ridiculous oxymoron; a contradiction in terms. For an intelligent human being, the leader of this country, the man we put in office because we believed he would keep his promises, this is nothing short of shameful.

Kendrah R.Oct 4 2010 02:50 PM

Lindy, I share your frustration. Obama was actually talking about Clean Coal during his campaign before he was elected. He has done so much for our country on so many other fronts. But when it comes to coal, we need to continue to support these environmental lawyers who are forcing these companies to shut down. That and go to the polls on November 2 and continue to vote for Democrats. They aren't perfect but are a lot better than Republicans.

The LoraxOct 11 2010 10:23 PM

thank you for covering this, shannon. i live on the headwaters of the captina (n fork). last spill in 08 got hardly any coverage - we got a little better coverage from columbus and steubenville this time. it really is a mini-BP. i take students out in the creek to help look for hellbenders. over 4000 dead animals pulled out, including 2 dead 'benders and 2 animals relocated. maybe the upside of this is that the feds will not issue the permit for the new slurry pond. not much consolation.

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