Hundreds of fish killed after accidental chemical spill in Harlan County

By: Morgan Lentes Email
By: Morgan Lentes Email

EVARTS, Ky (WYMT) - Hundreds of fish are dead following an accidental chemical spill at a Harlan County mine. That is according to Kentucky Fish and Wildlife officials.

The accident happened near Evarts last Friday. A representative for Harlan Cumberland Coal Company tells WYMT the situation is now under control.

Still, some residents, like Marvin Wynn, who lives in the area, are concerned.

"I guess there was 200 or 300 there laying in a big pile underneath the trees. But whatever it was, it killed every one of them," said Marvin Wynn.

Wynn and his brother Akles noticed hundreds of dead fish lining the once clear Clover Fork River bed. However, it was not until later they found out from state officials that an accidental chemical spill from a nearby mine was to blame.

"It was a terrible smell Saturday," said Akles Wynn.

Several of our viewers sent us pictures of dead fish, some even from downtown Evarts. The Wynn's said that is what they are concerned about, the possibility the chemicals could spread to Harlan and even other counties.

"If it is killing them here, it just kept going. There is no telling how far it has went," said Marvin Wynn.

Fish and Wildlife officials tell WYMT the chemical, which was used to clear the mine's sludge pond, is not dangerous to people. But for those calling the community home, that brief period of unknown was worrisome.

"I want them to be concerned about everyone in Harlan County," said Akles Wynn.

Crews from Harlan Cumberland Coal Company are in the process of cleaning up the dead fish.

No one from the coal company was available to talk on camera, but Joe Bennett stressed public safety is their number one concern, which is why they reported the accident as soon as it happened.

"Harlan Cumberland Coal Company is aware of an incident occurring this weekend on the upper Cloverfork section of the Cumberland River. We immediately ceased discharging any water into the river until our water was sampled and deemed safe to enter the stream. We are committed to continue the investigation of the cause, and source, of this occurrence in partnership with the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Division of Water, and the Cloverfork Community."

Bennett did send us a video and said, "This pond is the final point of treatment prior to the water being released into the Cloverfork section of the Cumberland River. As you can see, the fish are alive and appear healthy."

A state official also told WYMT that Harlan Cumberland Coal Company's actions were exemplary. He added the company has gone above and beyond in regards to clean-up after the fact.

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