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Martin County Coal Spill. Martin County Coal Corp. Located in Martin County, near Inez, Kentucky. In a declining industry, MCCC is still one of the largest producers in the state, turning out 3-5 million tons of coal per year. 1. Martin County Coal Corp. (cont.).

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Martin county coal corp
Martin County Coal Corp.

  • Located in Martin County, near Inez, Kentucky.

  • In a declining industry, MCCC is still one of the largest producers in the state, turning out 3-5 million tons of coal per year.1

Martin county coal corp cont
Martin County Coal Corp.(cont.)

  • The mine has been an asset to the people of Eastern Kentucky for years, creating jobs and aiding the small town economy.

  • In the fall of 2000, however, MCCC had an accident that was detrimental to the environment and the people of Eastern Kentucky.

The spill
The Spill

  • On October 11, 2000, one of MCCC’s coal slurry impoundments released nearly 300 million gallons of sludge into surrounding streams.

  • 20 miles of adjacent streams and flood plains were covered in 8 feet of slurry, killing all aquatic life.

The cause
The Cause

  • After approval from the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) for construction of the impoundment, MCCC did not follow through with the approved plan.

  • This lead to erosion of the barrier wall and eventually collapse.

The reaction
The Reaction

  • Governor Patton declared a State of Emergency in 10 surrounding counties.

  • MCCC had to ship in bottled water to the many residents that had polluted tap water.

The reaction cont
The Reaction (cont.)

  • Polluted soil was removed from the flood plains and replaced with clean soil. Residents appreciated the gesture, but complained that the new soil was hard and unfertile.

  • Kentucky began a review of 118 coal impoundments to ensure safety.

  • Engineers must now perform additional inspections and reviews of impoundments.


  • MCCC has paid 58 million dollars so far in costs resulting from the spill.

  • The EPA issued an administrative order holding MCCC entirely responsible for cleanup.


Penalties paid
Penalties paid

Source: State of Kentucky’s environment (2000-2001)


To help prevent disasters, such as this one, from ever happening again, there are two viable options to consider.

Prevention cont
Prevention (cont.)

In the aftermath of the Martin County disaster, new focus has been placed on the rules and regulations of the MHSA. In regards to approval plans for new impoundments, annual inspections are performed to ensure safety and any corrective action is executed immediately. As long as these new rules are strictly enforced, we should continue to see a decline in toxic spills in Kentucky.

Source: State of Kentucky’s Environment (2000-2001)

Prevention cont1
Prevention (cont.)

  • The next option is creating a coal slurry pipeline to pump the waste away from the mountains to treatment facilities in a safe area.

Prevention cont2
Prevention (cont.)

  • On the surface, pipeline use appears to be the best option, but there are 3 obstacles in the way.

    • Funding would make the project nearly cost prohibitive.

    • Water would be contaminated and impoundments would still be needed as a source for water.

    • Legal problems would exist with land owners, in the way of the pipeline, holding out for maximum compensation.


  • Due to the overwhelming number of challenges that the pipeline would face to become a reality, it remains an unrealistic goal, leaving the best option to be increased regulation and inspections, along with improved enforcement, as is already being done.

  • They have already shown improvement and should continue to do so.

The end

The End

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