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Water in Boone stream turns milky white after leak

By From staff reports

Fish seemed to be swimming pretty lively in a Boone County stream where a dust suppressant leaked, turning the water a milky shade of white, according to state environmental officials.

The spill was reported about 12:15 a.m. Thursday through the Department of Environmental Protection's spill line, said Kathy Cosco, a spokeswoman for the Department of Environmental Protection. It occurred at the Wells Coal Preparation Plant in Wharton near Van.

She said the substance is a latex-based dust suppressant sprayed onto coal when it is loaded into rail cars to keep the coal dust levels down. The substance leaked down into Pond Fork stream, a tributary of the Little Coal River, coloring the water white.

"We fully expected, seeing something like that, a fish kill or some affect on the aquatic life," Cosco said. "Our inspectors walked the entire length of Pond Fork and they found the fish swimming pretty lively in the stuff."

Cosco said DEP workers walked the nearly 5-mile length of the tributary and found the white substance filled a 1.4-mile section of the stream. It's water soluble, she said, and seemed to be dissolving as it moved downstream. 

She said the agency talked about having the company bring in a vacuum truck but decided against it, saying it would cause more of a disturbance in the stream. The company will have to report back to DEP within the next 48 hours with an answer as to how the leak occurred and where it came from. No public health advisory was issued in the matter, but just out of caution residents were advised not to get into the water while the substance was washing through.


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