The coal industry has had a significant impact on the lives, families, and communities of West Virginia. Working in the coal mines is routine and commonplace for residents, so when disaster strikes, all are deeply affected. From the 2010 Big Branch Explosion to the 2014 Elk River chemical disaster, West Virginian’s know that mining accidents can strike at any time.
What does the Elk River chemical spill mean for the coal industry?
On January 9, 2014, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection received numerous complaints concerning something in the air that was affecting the local community. A few hours later, it was determined that the Freedom Industries Charleston Plant on the Elk River was leaking 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (MCHM), a chemical used to purify coal before it is burned. The leak was in a tank that had not been inspected since 1991, and 10,000 gallons of MCHM had leaked into the Elk River and into the water treatment plant.