WVDEP investigating blowout at former Preston Co. mine that has caused acid levels in Cheat River, Muddy Creek to spike


Courtesy: Paul Kinder

UPDATE (3/5/21 5:50 p.m.):

ALBRIGHT, W.Va. – Friends of the Cheat has released a statement on the mine discharge in Preston County.

“It is with heavy hearts that we inform our river community that there has been another blowout related to the T&T mine system, and acidic and metal laden water is again flowing through Muddy Creek.  FOC staff noticed the disturbing hue of the water yesterday and found the pH reading 3.65.  pH has dropped in the Canyon at “Decision Rapid” to 5.8, and has stained the river right extensively. 

The WVDEP Muddy Creek Watershed Treatment Plant has not been able to handle the burden of the recent precipitation events.  With precipitation projected to occur more often and with greater intensity over the next decade, we are left to wonder how often these events may occur.  For the fish documented in Muddy Creek and the Canyon, this is a major ecological setback.  This is ever more proof that our work is not done, and the risk these Abandoned Mine Lands pose to healthy ecosystems.

We will continue to push for restored water quality, innovation, and will not accept this as the status quo for Muddy Creek.  Now more than ever, SMCRA AML reauthorization will be critical to address the longstanding ecological damage continually caused by abandoned mine lands.  We’re not out of the weeds yet.”

Friends of the Cheat statement

ORIGINAL STORY (3/5/21 4:33 p.m.):

The West Virginia Department of Environment Protection (WVDEP) is currently investigating a blowout from the former T&T Mine Complex that is discharging into the confluence of Muddy Creek and the Cheat River in Preston County.

A press release from the WVDEP that was issued on Friday afternoon stated that large amounts of highly acidic water, 10 times that of normal concentrations, along with sediment are discharging from the former mine and have caused acid levels in Muddy Creek and the Cheat River to spike. Officials said the flow peaked at 6,200 gallons per minute on Thursday afternoon but has since dropped to 3,500 gallons per minute.

The incident has since been reported to the agency’s spill line, according to the release.

Officials said Thursday’s event overwhelmed the WVDEP’s acid mine drainage (AMD) treatment system, known as the T&T Treatment Facility, causing a pipeline entering a manhole to rupture. An estimated 300-500 gallons per minute were not going into the treatment facility, the release stated.

According to the release, staff from the WVDEP’s Office of Special Reclamation are on-site to investigate and implement a repair plan.

“The flow has to decrease to where we can shut off the valves that regulate the water out of the T&T mine,” said the WVDEP’s Acting Communications Director Terry Fletcher. “This would cause water to build up in the mine and allow our staff time to make repairs at the manhole and better assess the situation.”

The WVDEP said similar events occurred on three occasions since the the initial blowouts at the T&T mine in 1994 and 1995, which overwhelmed previous AMD treatment systems. The release stated that these events prompted the WVDEP to install the new, innovative T&T Treatment Facility, which treats up to 6 million gallons of AMD per day.

The release stated that the WVDEP has yet to determine the cause of Thursday’s event, or prior events. Officials said there is speculation that periodic roof collapses within the T&T mine is displacing large volumes of highly acidic water at one time, but the agency has not been able to confirm this theory. Additionally, significant amounts of rainfall in recent days likely increased the volume of water in the mine and contributed to the current situation.

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