Kentucky Residents Seeing Black Flood of Coal Sludge Mars Fall Landscape

Article excerpt

INEZ, Ky. -- When Delmer Moore looks out his window in mid-October, he ordinarily sees the beautiful yellow and orange leaves of autumn.

This year, the predominant color is black.

It's been that way since a coal mine pond gave way last week, releasing 200 million gallons of sludge into eastern Kentucky streams, killing fish, washing away roads and bridges, and fouling the region's water supply.

Moore has watched as the molasses-like substance topped the banks of Coldwater Creek and began claiming his property outside of Inez, which is 140 miles east of Lexington. The sludge covered most of Moore's back yard, surrounding his fruit trees and grape arbor and smothering his garden.

"We've been working on our property 22 years to get it the way we wanted it. What we accomplished in all those years disappeared overnight," he said.

The leading edge of the tar-like expanse has already made it into the Ohio River about 60 miles away.

Some businesses and school systems in two counties have been ordered closed to conserve the water that hasn't been fouled. Martin County Coal Corp., which owns the 70-acre pond, has been handing out bottled water to residents in Inez, Louisa and Kermit, W.Va.

The water shortage prompted Gov. Paul Patton to declare a state of emergency in a large portion of northeastern Kentucky.

The pond was used to collect liquid coal waste from three mines.

Not everyone was as blindsided by its collapse as the people living in the affected areas. …