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Critic questions way coal firms build slurry ponds

9:35 AM, Dec 7, 2012   |    comments
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By Vicki Smith, Associated Press

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) -- A critic of the coal industry and the agencies that regulate it says slurry pond failures like the one that swallowed a bulldozer driver last week in West Virginia shouldn't happen.

Engineering consultant Jack Spadaro says the failures wouldn't happen if impoundments were built to strict construction standards he claims state and federal regulators routinely ignore.

Spadaro argues regulators let companies build or expand slurry ponds atop coal waste that's often loose and wet.

Bill Raney is president of the West Virginia Coal Association. He says impoundment failures are rare and the ponds are the most scrutinized and most engineered earthen structures in the world.

West Virginia has 114 such impoundments, according to the Mine Safety and Health Administration. In all, there are 596 in 21 states.

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