FRANKFORT, Ky. – Kentucky’s top environmental official today announced plans for the Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet (EPPC) to perform monitoring of the Levisa Fork of the Big Sandy River and Fishtrap Lake to ensure water quality is not impaired by discharges of brine water by a coal mining company in Virginia.
“I have been assured by the state of Virginia that the water to be discharged will not harm Kentucky waterways,” said Teresa J. Hill, secretary of the EPPC. “Nonetheless, it remains prudent to conduct periodic monitoring to make sure our waters remain safe for aquatic life and as a source of drinking water.”
Consolidation Coal Co., a subsidiary of Pittsburgh-based Consol Energy, has received a permit from the state of Virginia to begin discharging in late May or early June up to 10,000 gallons per minute of brine water into the Levisa Fork 12 miles upstream from the Kentucky border. Once it crosses into Kentucky, the Levisa Fork flows into Fishtrap Lake about 10 miles downstream.
The brine water is a byproduct of underground coal mining. It will travel through a 19-mile pipeline to the Levisa Fork of the Big Sandy River where it will be released through a diffuser at a rate of up to14.4 million gallons per day. News of the discharge plan has caused some concern about possible contamination of the water bodies.
The Kentucky Division of Water will begin weekly sampling of the Levisa Fork in early May on the Kentucky side a few miles downstream of the discharge point. Water samples will be taken prior to initiation of the discharge and during the discharge. The Division of Water will also monitor Fishtrap Lake for water quality and algae content. The state of Virginia has established a biological monitoring point one mile upstream of the Virginia-Kentucky border and will share the collected data with Kentucky.
Tom VanArsdall, manager of the Water Quality Branch at the Division of Water, said that Virginia’s water quality standards for chloride are more stringent than Kentucky’s and are adequate to assure that water quality in Levisa Fork at the border will comply with Kentucky water quality standards for chloride if the permit conditions are met.