McDowell man reports black water spill, DEP finds none

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A McDowell County man says black water, likely from a nearby strip-mining site, spilled into Cucumber Creek near his home in Newhall Tuesday.

Officials from the state Department of Environmental Protection, though, say they did not find a spill there.

Alexander Wright, of Newhall, said he noticed a spill around 2 p.m. Tuesday while visiting a friend’s house, about a quarter of a mile from his home. He crossed a bridge over Cucumber Creek and noticed black water and oil filling the stream.

“Usually there’s no water in it and it didn’t rain today,” Wright said. “All of a sudden this branch starting filling.”

Tom Clarke, director of the DEP’s mining and reclamation division, said Wednesday morning that DEP field staff reported that they found no evidence of any event in Cucumber Creek.

The creek, a branch of Dry Fork River, is beneath a strip mine run by Bluestone Coal, Wright said.

“It kills everything in that branch — which is a native trout stream,” he said.

Wright said he had been calling the DEP, but at 8 p.m. Tuesday, an inspector had not been by to check the spill, he said.

“If we get 2 to 3 inches of rain off of a thunderstorm we’re going to have a bad day if the [coal company] can’t do better,” Wright said. “If they’re not taking care of their ponds, there’s something wrong.”

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