On October 1, a two-inch crack opened on a welded joint on a slurry pipeline beneath a farm field near the creek. The same pipeline, which connects the company’s Century underground mine with an impoundment, ruptured August 23, 2005, spewing an estimated 30,000 gallons of sludge into the waterway. The Cleveland, Ohio-based company, headed by veteran Midwest coal operator Robert Murray, paid a $50,000 fine for that incident.
The amount of slurry that entered the creek this time still was undetermined. It took several days for cleanup contractors hired by Murray to vacuum out all of the visible slurry.
But that did not mean the job was over. “The spill is cleaned up, but the next step after the cleanup is for our Division of Surface Water and DNR [Division of Natural Resources] to take over and do the other remedial work and kind of oversee that work gets done to restore the stream to its original condition,” said Erin Strouse, a spokeswoman for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.
The Ohio EPA and DNR planned to calculate how much they would charge Murray for their portion of the cleanup and the dead animals, respectively.
DNR said the spill killed more than 4,300 animals, including some 3,500 fish, along with crayfish, turtles and other amphibians. Captina Creek is home to the federally endangered Eastern hellbender salamander. Three of the creatures were found and relocated to an uncontaminated part of the creek. No dead Eastern hellbender salamanders had been discovered.
Strouse said the Division of Surface Water planned to total up the emergency response bill and send it to Murray. Once the emergency response had officially ended, it was expected to take a month or two for Ohio EPA’s fiscal office to finalize the costs. “As for fines, the Ohio EPA will first review the facts and then consider enforcement,” while DNR will assess penalties separately for violations and the fish kill, she said.
State officials said Murray cooperated fully in the cleanup. The company said the spill did not adversely affect coal production or shipments at Century, one of two large deep mines owned by Murray in Ohio. The other is Powhatan No. 6. Between the two mines, the company turns out about 12 million tons annually, or almost half of Ohio’s total output of 26 million tons.