West Virginia environmental authorities said Friday that they are investigating the cause of highly acidic water flowing from a former mine complex to waterways in northern Preston County.
Sediment and discharge 10 times as acidic as normal concentrations are entering the Muddy Creek and Cheat River, the Department of Environmental Protection said in a news release.
The flow of discharge from the T&T Mine Complex peaked at 6,200 gallons (23,470 liters) a minute on Thursday afternoon, then dropped to 3,500 gallons (13,248 liters) a minute, according to a news release.
“The flow has to decrease to where we can shut off the valves that regulate the water out of the T&T mine,” said agency spokesperson Terry Fletcher. “This would cause water to build up in the mine and allow our staff time to make repairs at the manhole and better assess the situation.”
The agency is considering the possibility that the highly acidic water leaked due to periodic roof collapses within the mine, but officials haven’t confirmed that theory. Recent heavy rainfall also likely contributed to the mine blowout, the news release said.
Similar incidents happened in 1994 and 1995, leading to upgrades in the water treatment system.
But Thursday’s leak overwhelmed capabilities and an estimated 300 to 500 gallons (1,136 to 1,893 liters) per minute were not going into the treatment facility. A pipeline entering a manhole also ruptured.
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