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Kentucky state of emergency: 757 million litres of sludge pollutes waterways

INEZ, Ky. (AP) - A huge spill of gooey coal sludge that has seeped into eastern Kentucky streams forced officials to declare a state of emergency Monday.

Car washes and schools were closed in an attempt to save whatever clean water remained, as the black water reached the Ohio River. Seven hundred and fifty-seven million litres of coal waste the consistency of wet cement flowed into streams last Wednesday after a retention pond gave way at a coal-preparation plant on a mountaintop near Inez.

Gov. Paul Patton declared a state of emergency Monday in a large portion of northeastern Kentucky, saying water shortages were affecting drinking-water supplies, basic sanitation and fire-protection.

The leading edge of the spill entered the Big Sandy River and black water had reached the Ohio River, forcing the cities Inez, Louisa and Kermit, W.Va., to close their water intakes and rely on existing supplies.

"We're going to have to find an alternative water source," said Martin County deputy judge-executive Gary Lafferty.

"That's our big concern right now. We're not going to allow our people to be without water."

Classes in Martin County's schools were cancelled until another source of water can be found.

School superintendent Bill Slone said regulators had been unable to estimate how long the water crisis might last.

"We need help, or we could be looking at four to five weeks without classes," he said.

The leak occurred at a plant owned by the Martin County Coal Corp., which had crews working around the clock dredging the ooze from streams.

The state has ordered the company, a subsidiary of A.T. Massey Coal Inc., to replace fish and other aquatic life killed and rebuild roads and bridges it ripped away.

Fred Stroud, a member of an emergency-response team from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said it could take at least five to six months to clean up the spill, a project expected to cost millions.

-- Matt Sludge the bottom feeder (sludge is my name @ drudging sludge. is my game), October 17, 2000

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