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DEP finds few problems in Prenter water

Read the report here.CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- State regulators said Tuesday that a new review found only limited mining-related contamination of groundwater in the Boone County community of Prenter, where residents say coal-slurry injection poisoned their drinking water.

"Our investigation did not identify evidence of widespread human-induced impacts to groundwater quality in the Prenter Road area," said a report written for the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection by the industry consulting firm Triad Engineering.

Triad officials collected water samples from 33 of the more than 100 homes they visited as part of the project launched by the DEP after the agency did not include the Prenter area in a broader study of whether underground injection of coal slurry has damaged drinking water in the coalfields.

"This was a thorough, comprehensive study," DEP Secretary Randy Huffman said in a news release. "I hope that the results help put the people in the Prenter community at ease because we can point to laboratory test results from the wells that say the water quality is within Primary Drinking Water Standards."

The study area included residences along Hopkins Fork of the Big Coal River and tributaries of Hopkins Fork from Seth to Prenter. A large portion of the study area, upstream to Nelson, now has public water and doesn't rely on residential wells.

The DEP said two domestic wells -- neither currently used for drinking water -- located adjacent to a reclaimed surface mine operation "showed the greatest signs of mine-related impact." Those wells had elevated sulfate, iron, manganese and aluminum, but those levels did not exceed government standards.

"These wells probably derive their water from the same groundwater flow system occupied by the reclaimed mining operation," the Triad report said. "Therefore, it is possible that elevated sulfate, iron, manganese and aluminum levels detected in those wells may be related to potential impacts from the mining operation."

A third of the wells tested did exceed what are called secondary drinking water standards for iron and manganese. Violations of secondary standards are those that affect the taste, odor or color of drinking water and can stain skin or teeth, but are not considered a public health risk.

Last week, Prenter residents held a news conference at the Capitol to release reports prepared by experts hired by their lawyers. Those reports said that coal-slurry injection had contaminated area drinking water wells.

Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kward@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702.


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