Friday, October 08, 2010

Murray Energy responsible for Ohio slurry spill

Thousands of fish and aquatic animals were killed in an eastern Ohio creek last week after a slurry burst from a pipeline carrying the waste to a storage pond. "In all, more than 4,000 animals died in the spill that fouled nearly a mile of Captina Creek in Belmont County," Frank Thomas of The Columbus Dispatch reports. "A subsidiary of Murray Energy owns the pipeline that broke beneath a farm field about 250 feet from Captina Creek." The Cleveland company shut off the pipeline and built dikes to keep more slurry from spreading. (Dispatch map)

"The water's all black, and the rocks are covered with a gooey black substance," Greg Lipps, a herpetologist and contractor for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources who visited the creek yesterday, told Thomas. "Dead fish. Dead crayfish. Pretty devastating." The creek is also home to endangered Eastern hellbender salamanders, though no dead hellbenders have been found yet. Cleanup crews did relocate three farther from the spill, but Lipps said those may not survive in their new habitat.

Murray Energy will pay cleanup costs and fines assessed for each animal that was killed. "Fines are based on values attached to individual species," Thomas writes. "Endangered species, such as the hellbender, cost $1,000 each." Murray Energy had to pay fines for previous slurry spills in 2000 and 2005, and is still under investigation for a 2008 spill. "This is like the drunk driver that keeps hitting kids in the crosswalk, yet the state keeps giving him his license back," said Jack Shaner of the Ohio Environmental Council, an advocacy group. (Read more) The company also had a mine collapse in Utah in 2007, killing six miners.

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