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DEP: Coal slurry impoundments will require new safety measures

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In new state policy, operators of some coal slurry impoundments will be required to provide additional verification of the safety of their impoundments.

The policy was announced Jan. 10 with the release of a federal Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation Enforcement study. It dealt with state Department of Environmental Protection procedures regarding the potential for breakthrough of slurry impoundments into underground mines.  

Where impoundments are near mineable seams, the state Department of Environmental Protection will no longer rely on mine maps alone but may require operators to verify, through drilling or remote sensing, that those seams have not been mined.

And where impoundments previously identified as too close to underground mine workings have been capped and then topped by smaller slurry cells, DEP will require operators to verify that the underlying slurry is no longer "flowable."

The OSM's Phase III study reviewed 15 mines across the state.

The state will begin instituting these measures beginning with midterm review or with renewal of permits, whichever comes first, and will have cycled through all 132 slurry impoundments in three years, according to DEP Department of Mining and Reclamation Senior Engineer Jim Pierce.