Fish Creek Blackwater Spill – What You Need to Know

Fish Creek Blackwater Spill – What You Need to Know

On January 20, 2017, Fish Creek experienced an infiltration of “blackwater” or “slurry” from seeping of the Connor Run impoundment in Marshall County. This infiltration was significant enough to mobilize officials from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection to on scene of a slurry release. And while the event itself was widely reported in the news media, I found no discussion at all on the nature of this “blackwater” or the Conner Run impoundment.

In fact, this blackwater is the toxic waste that remains after coal is burnt to create electricity at the Kammer and Mitchell power plants. This waste is deposited in the Conner Run impoundment, which is simply a very deep lagoon in which the waste is placed, along with water, to create a slurry.  Toxic substances in this coal waste often include arsenic, mercury, chromium, and cadmium, all of which can contaminate drinking water supplies and damage vital human organs and the nervous system.  In fact, one study found that one out of every 100 children who drink groundwater contaminated with arsenic from coal power plant wastes were at risk of developing cancer. The EPA has also reported that the risk of getting cancer from coal ash lagoons is 10,000 times greater than government safety standards allow.

A typical coal plant creates more than 125,000 tons of ash and 193,000 tons of sludge from the smokestack scrubber each year. The most at-risk communities for groundwater contamination with this waste are those that lie near waste ponds like Connor Run impoundment, that lack a protective liner to prevent blackwater seepage into the groundwater table. Groundwater monitoring for the Conner Run Impoundment have previously shown moderate exceedances of the arsenic groundwater criterion.

For anyone living in the shadow of the Conner Run impoundment, you may want to consider having your tapwater tested for heavy metals, including arsenic, mercury, lead, chromium and cadmium. For more information, you can call the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791. If testing reveals evidence of contamination, you may also want to consider a whole house water filter that removes heavy metals and other coal waste contaminants. There are a number of systems available on the market for that purpose. 


On January 20, 2017, Fish Creek experienced an infiltration of �blackwater� or �slurry� from seeping of the Connor Run impoundment in Marshall County. This infiltration was significant enough to mobilize officials from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection to on scene of a slurry release. And while the event itself was widely reported in the news media, I found no discussion at all on the nature of this �blackwater� or the Conner Run impoundment.