DEP issues violations, halts operations at surface mine near Kanawha State Forest
In their complaint, OVEC and the Kanawha Forest Coalition provided June 16 flyover photos of the mine site.
West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection inspectors have issued two violations, including one that has partially halted work operations, to the new Keystone Industries mountaintop removal site near Kanawha State Forest in the last two weeks.
During a July 7 inspection of the KD Surface Mine No. 2 site via helicopter, DEP inspectors noticed that a sediment control ditch, referred to as SD14, along a timbered area had not been constructed — which is a requirement of the site’s preplan, according to DEP spokeswoman Kelley Gillenwater.
The following day, inspectors followed up with an on-the-ground inspection to confirm what they had seen from the air, and issued a notice of violation, or NOV, for “failure to construct and certify the ditch in advance of the timber cutting disturbance,” which requires Keystone to construct the ditch by July 22, she said.
During the July 8 on-the-ground inspection, DEP inspectors also noted that another sediment control ditch, SD15, had some minor cracks. Inspectors did not issue a NOV for these cracks, but instructed the mine owner to fix them; they were fixed by July 10, Gillenwater said.
But on July 15, she said, inspectors noticed that another area along SD15 had significant cracking, for which the DEP issued an “imminent harm cessation order” for failure to construct the ditch correctly. The cessation order shuts down activity of the drainage area around SD15 until the ditch is reconstructed and recertified, and requires the company to fix the damage by July 22.
Between these two inspections, on July 11, the agency received a formal complaint from the Kanawha Forest Coalition and the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, who said that drainage and sediment control structures had not been installed before the area was clear cut in preparation for mining.
The complaint included photos taken from a June 16 flyover provided by southwings.org with representatives of the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition that showed the mining disturbance, and provided an eyewitness report that no drainage or sediment control structures were in place, according to the letter.
"Until sediment and drainage control ditches are certified below all current surface disturbances, a cessation order halting all coal removal activities shall be issued," the letter reads. "No work shall be permitted to continue on the site in the form of clearing, grubbing, timbering, or blasting unless it is necessary to facilitate the certification of required sediment and drainage control structures."
By the time the DEP received the complaint, however, enforcement action in the form of an NOV had already been initiated, Gillenwater said.
"Keystone Development has shown a consistent pattern of violations on their nearby surface mining operations so it comes as no surprise that they've already committed a significant violation on the new permit adjacent to Kanawha State Forest," said Chad Cordell of the Kanawha Forest Coalition. "The DEP is trying to sound tough on this, yet they have consistently failed in their duty to enforce regulations and protect our communities from the adverse impacts of surface mining. It's shameful that in order to protect our community, our health, and our State Forest, West Virginia citizens are having to do the DEP's job for them."
The DEP has received negative feedback from several organizations, including the Kanawha Forest Coalition, the Coal River Mountain Watch and the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, since the agency approved the 400-acre mining permit so close to the state forest just this May.