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NEW INFO: W.Va. Slurry Pond Death Prompts MSHA Advisory

By: WSAZ News Staff; The Associated Press Email
By: WSAZ News Staff; The Associated Press Email

UPDATE 12/19/12 @ 12:10 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Federal regulators say coal companies should provide hazard training to people working on coal slurry impoundments in the wake of a West Virginia man's death.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration typically issues best-practices advisories after a fatality. This one tells companies to train workers to watch for surface cracks and bubbling in the slurry that could indicate problems.

MSHA says workers should be removed when conditions are unsafe.

Fifty-eight-year-old Markel Koon of Shinnston died Nov. 30 when an embankment collapsed at Consol Energy's Robinson Run mine impoundment near Lumberport.

Koon and his bulldozer went into the muck. He was removed last week.

It was the 19th coal industry death this year, but the first involving a slurry pond.

The cause of the collapse is under investigation.



UPDATE 12/14/12 @ 5:25 p.m.
LUMBERPORT, W.Va. (AP) -- The body of a worker missing since Nov. 30 in a West Virginia coal slurry pond has been recovered.

Consol Energy spokeswoman Lynn Seay said Friday the body of 58-year-old Markel J. Koon of Shinnston was found inside the cab of the bulldozer he was driving when an embankment collapsed.

The dozer with Koon inside was swept into the massive Robinson Run prep plant impoundment near Lumberport, along with two pickups and other men who survived.

Dive teams located the dozer and repositioned a pipe with built-in water jets that pushed away the muck so they could see the dozer. During a dive Friday, they cut open the canopy and found the victim.

Consol has withheld the dozer operator's name at his family's request.

Koon was a 37-year Consol employee.



UPDATE 12/12/12
LUMBERPORT, W.Va. (AP) -- Dive teams trying to remove a bulldozer driver from a West Virginia coal slurry pond have been forced to suspend operations because of technical challenges.

The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration said Wednesday it may now take up to two days to cut through the roof of the cab on the submerged dozer.

The dozer and its driver were swept into the massive Robinson Run prep plant impoundment near Lumberport on Nov. 30 when part of an embankment collapsed. The cause is under investigation.

MSHA says dive teams had been able to cut a small hole in the cab and locate the man, but the slurry and water are interfering with their ability to cut further.

They suspended operations Tuesday night and are now looking for different tools



UPDATE 12/10/12 @ 11:25 a.m.
LUMBERPORT, W.Va. (AP) - Consol Energy says the body of a bulldozer operator missing for more than a week in a West Virginia coal slurry pond has been located inside the vehicle's cab.

Spokeswoman Lynn Seay wouldn't predict Monday how long it may take to remove him, calling it a complex effort that requires both time and precision.

Dive and rescue teams located the dozer and its position over the weekend during a pipe dive at the Robinson Run impoundment near Lumberport.

Then they repositioned the pipe with built-in water jets that push away the muck. During that dive Monday morning, they cut open the canopy on the dozer.

The unidentified man was swept into the massive lake of slurry Nov. 30 when a section of embankment collapsed.

An investigation is under way.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 12/7/12 @ 5:30 p.m.
LUMBERPORT, W.Va. (AP) -- A complex dive effort to recover a bulldozer driver missing in a massive West Virginia coal slurry pond will begin Saturday morning, eight days after he went into the muck.

Consol Energy's Lynn Seay says federal officials approved the plan late Thursday.

Pennsylvania-based Consol also got permission to resume use of its slurry pond, which takes waste from the Robinson Run mine prep plant in Harrison County.

The dive attempt involves lowering a 40-foot pipe vertically to the dozer location.

Divers will go down through as water jets push away silt. They'll work by touch to try to locate the missing man, who hasn't been identified.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration says a dog brought to the site Thursday night indicated the team is working in the right spot.



UPDATE 12/6/12 @ 3:30 p.m.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) -- The investigation into a slurry pond collapse that swallowed a bulldozer operator is only starting, but people familiar with the construction process say it's likely someone pushed too far, too fast.

A worker remained missing Thursday as the Mine Safety and Health Administration issued a preliminary report on the Nov. 30 failure at Consol Energy's Robinson Run impoundment near Lumberport.

It doesn't identify a cause. But media outlets say workers were pushing refuse toward one side of the dam to expand it.

Dennis Boyle of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement says it's like pushing into a swimming pool; material gets saturated.

Dam safety engineer Jim Pierce of the Department of Environmental Protection says there was a loss of stability in either the embankment or the pond's foundation.



UPDATE 12/5/12 @ 3:55 p.m.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) -- Consol Energy plans to use a 40-foot pipe and a Louisiana dive team to recover a bulldozer operator sucked into the Robinson Run slurry pond last week.

Vice President for Safety Lou Barletta said Wednesday the pipe will be lowered into the pond. Water jets will flush out silt as the pipe moves toward the dozer. Divers will enter through the pipe and work by touch to locate the driver.

Consol doesn't know the exact location and position of the dozer or whether the victim is inside.

If that doesn't work, a sheet-piling wall will be built around the dozer. Teams would pump out silt before divers enter to search.

No timetable was given, and Barletta didn't take questions.

An embankment collapse sent the dozer into the pond on Friday.



UPDATE 12/5/12 @ 11 a.m.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) -- An engineer with the Department of Environmental Protection says Consol Energy was trying to enlarge its massive coal slurry pond when an embankment collapsed under a bulldozer.

The driver is missing and presumed drowned, five days after the accident at the Robinson Run slurry impoundment near Lumberport. Pennsylvania-based Consol plans an afternoon briefing Wednesday to explain its recovery plan.

Engineer Clarence Wright says the DEP inspected the impoundment in mid-October and found no violations.

Wright told the Associated Press that Consol sought an expansion permit in 2009.

All dams and impoundments are inspected annually. Wright says he's done them for 35 years and has never seen an accident like this.

Wright says West Virginia has about 120 slurry and reclamation ponds statewide, both smaller and larger than Robinson Run's impoundment.



UPDATE 12/3/12 @ 1:50 p.m.
SHINNSTON, W.Va. (AP) - A search has resumed in north-central West Virginia for the missing operator of a bulldozer that plummeted into a Consol Energy coal slurry pond.

U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration spokeswoman Amy Louviere says federal, state and company officials gathered at the site Monday.

The bulldozer is believed to be about 25 feet to 35 feet below the surface.
The worker's name hasn't been released. Coal slurry impoundments are used to contain both solid refuse and the wastewater product known as slurry.

On Friday an embankment at the impoundment collapsed at Consol's Robinson Run mine in Harrison County. Two engineers who also tumbled into the pond were rescued.



UPDATE 12/3/12 @ 12:50 p.m.
SHINNSTON, W.Va. (AP) -- A search has resumed in north-central West Virginia for the missing operator of a bulldozer that plummeted into a Consol Energy coal slurry pond.

U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration spokeswoman Amy Louviere says federal, state and company officials gathered at the site Monday. The bulldozer is believed to be about 25 feet to 35 feet below the surface.

The worker's name hasn't been released.

Coal slurry impoundments are used to contain both solid refuse and the wastewater product known as slurry.

On Friday an embankment at the impoundment collapsed at Consol's Robinson Run mine in Harrison County. Two engineers who also tumbled into the pond were rescued.



UPDATE 12/3/12 @ 8 a.m.
SHINNSTON, W.Va. (AP) -- Searchers are trying to pinpoint the location of a bulldozer that plummeted into a coal slurry pond in West Virginia.

Mine Safety and Health Administration spokeswoman Amy Louviere says searchers believe the bulldozer is about 25 feet to 35 feet below the surface. They're using metal rods to confirm its location. Sheet pilings will be placed around the bulldozer to isolate it. Louviere says the hope is that divers can then enter the area and find the bulldozer operator.

The worker has been missing since Friday when an embankment at the impoundment collapsed at Consol Energy's Robinson Run mine in Harrison County. Two engineers who also tumbled into the water were rescued.

Coal slurry impoundments are used to contain both solid refuse and the wastewater product known as slurry.



ORIGINAL STORY 11/30/12
LUMBERPORT, W.Va. (AP) -- Consol Energy says one of its workers is unaccounted and two others were hurt when an embankment collapsed, sending a bulldozer and two pickups into a coal slurry pond in north-central West Virginia.

Spokeswoman Lynn Seay says it happened Friday afternoon at the Robinson Run Preparation Plant in Harrison County, but what caused the failure is unclear.

One employee was transported to a local hospital and was reported alert and stable.

Seay says that a second employee was airlifted to another hospital, and his condition wasn't immediately known.

State investigators were headed to the scene, but the Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training said it had no further details.

Seay says Pennsylvania-based Consol will work closely with state and federal investigators, and release more details as it can.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest information.


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