Boone Co. residents concerned after vandalism causes oil leak into river

Published: Feb. 5, 2022 at 10:58 PM EST
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BOONE COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) - 2/6/22 UPDATE: An act of vandalism is causing oil to spill into the Pond Fork River in Boone County.

Firefighters say the tank that was vandalized help up to 5,000 gallons of oil inside and it is currently unknown how much oil escaped from the tank.

G.W. Davis lives at the mouth of Jack Branch Road less that a mile from the transformer substation.

“I had no idea they had anything with oil or whatever,” said Davis.

He said he did not know there was oil in the tanks of an old transformer substation. Saturday he grew concerned when he saw fire trucks driving by in the afternoon, but said he did not know what they were doing.

“Yesterday, we saw a lot of traffic going out you know fire and rescue trucks,” said Davis.

Boone County firefighters said they went up to check the substation owned by Lexington Coal Company after a person came forward and said they could see oil sheen on the Pond Fork River.

Firefighters said they found out the station had been vandalized. The gate to a 5,000 gallon oil tank had been cut and the valve to the tank had been turned to let oil leak out.

“There is always shady people coming in and out of here plus they can come in from another way besides this way,” said Davis.

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection was called out to investigate. Officials with the DEP said the tank contained mineral oil inside and when it was vandalized that oil spilled into a sediment pond nearby.

Firefighters say the oil also leaked into the Pond Fork River.

A spokesperson with the DEP said no sheen or residue was visible and no fishkill had been observed.

A video taken by a Maria Gunnoe in South Madison down river from the spill was shared with WSAZ and it shows oil sheen in the river.

Davis said it is hard to stop people from going up to the substation.

“It’s hard to stop people when you have a lot of different access to get into Jack’s Branch you just really can’t stop it,” said Davis.

He said the road allows access to the restricted area.

“The gate is not going to stop anyone that cuts the locks or pulls the gates down no matter how big they are,” said Davis.

It is currently unknown how much oil was released into the Pond Fork Branch of the Little Coal River.

The DEP said they will continue to test the river. They said the spill has been contained after crews put down mats. The DEP also says the valve has been shut off and the inflow from the sediment pond to the river has been shut off by the Lexington Coal Company.

WSAZ checked with the Boone County Sheriff’s office who says there is no investigation currently into the vandalism. WSAZ also checked with the West Virginia State Police who said they do not have any cases related to this vandalism.

This is a developing story, keep checking WSAZ for updates.

2/6/22 UPDATE:

The WVDEP says they were notified of a spill resulting from an act of vandalism at a Lexington Coal Company facility on the Pond Fork Branch of the Little Coal River in Boone County.

Officials say vandals had opened a valve on a transformer, releasing mineral oil into a sediment pond on Jacks Branch of the Pond Fork. A Lexington representative closed the valve and shut off the inflow to the sediment pond upon arrival.

The Madison Fire Department placed mats down in Jacks Branch to help contain the spill. WVDEP inspectors were on site and collected samples above and below the pond outlet and no sheen or residue was visible. No fishkill has been observed.

WVDEP staff will be onsite over the coming days to conduct a stream assessment and ensure the spill is cleaned up.

ORIGINAL: According to the Van Fire Department, vandals drained a tank that holds 5,000 gallons of oil from a coal substation. Firefighters say the oil has leaked from sediment ponds into Pond Fork River near Madison.

Firefighters say at the scene they found the gate cut and the valve to the tank turned.

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection was notified of a possible spill in the area and has an inspector en route to investigate the situation.

This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.

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