Slurry dam owner turns deaf ear to suit

A WEST Virginia coal slurry impoundment, whose owner chose to ignore a federal lawsuit calling the dam potentially dangerous, has reportedly had its permit revoked.

Donna Schmidt

According to the Associated Press, the North Hollow dam in Barbour County is no longer operating.

State Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Kathy Cosco said it planned to hire an engineering firm to evaluate the dam and create a dewatering plan.

The US Department of Labor filed a lawsuit in US District Court against the owner, Dominick LaRosa, in February but he had not responded to the complaint.

Cosco told the AP the department would retain a firm by next week and one of its priorities would be telling the DEP exactly how much slurry was in the dam.

She said it would also map the permit area, develop clean-up guidelines and conduct reclamation activities.

“They will give us measurements and tell us exactly what we’re dealing with,” Cosco told the AP.

Once started, the work should be completed within a few months.

The impoundment serves the Century 101 mine, which is no longer operational.

The US Mine Safety and Health Administration labeled the dam a “high hazard” in suit documentation, indicating fatalities were likely should a failure occur.

Cosco told the news service the residents living below the dam were not in an imminent danger.

Earlier this week US District Judge John Preston Bailey said LaRosa and his company, Energy Marketing, were in default for ignoring the Labor Department’s complaint within the required 60 days and were putting the public at risk because the impoundment had not been certified by a professional engineer for two years.

MSHA records also show Energy Marketing has been cited two dozen times for problems.