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Leslie County Mine Experiences Blowout

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - A mine blowout in southeastern Kentucky
was releasing thousands of gallons of water Sunday from an
underground mine that had not been used since the 1970s, but no
injuries or evacuations were reported, state officials said.
"We're not looking at hillside failures," said Paul Rothman,
spokesman for the state Energy and Environment Cabinet. "We don't
see that happening here."
The blowout was discovered Saturday at 9 p.m. EDT by local
residents near the community of Chappell in Leslie County, Rothman
said. Chappell is about 150 miles southeast of Louisville.
The water was flowing directly out of the mine, owned by Bledsoe
Coal Corp., and into Robinson Creek, at approximately 10,000
gallons per minute, Rothman said.
He called that amount of water "a fairly significant release
... a fairly large amount."
Rothman described the water as clear with some suspended metals
in it, and said samples of water had been taken for testing. He
said officials do not believe "there is a water quality issue at
this time."
Only one homeowner about 2,000 feet downstream was asked to
leave as a precaution, he said, but the homeowner refused.
"There's no homes in danger," said Chappell resident Bill
Lewis, who spoke to The Associated Press by telephone, saying he
lived downstream from the blowout but was not asked to leave. "No
big deal at all."
A woman who answered the telephone in the Harlan office of
Bledsoe Coal said she had no information on the blowout, and
offered the number for the Leslie County office. That telephone
number rang without an answer.
The state Division of Mine Reclamation and Enforcement cited
Bledsoe Coal because of the blowout, and both a notice of
noncompliance and an imminent danger closure order were issued
Saturday, Rothman said.
Bledsoe Coal had an active permit for the mine, but it had not
been used in at least 40 years, Rothman said.
An old, inactive slurry impoundment and a fresh water
impoundment are located over portions of the old mine, and it is
unclear whether they are leaking into the old mine or whether there
is any relationship between them and the blowout, Rothman said.
Rothman said it will be Bledsoe's responsibility to install a
drain in the mine once the water begins to dissipate.
A mine blowout typically occurs in an unused mine when water
collects at low points and pressure builds up, Rothman said. The
water will come through the surface of an area that has eroded over
time, he said.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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