CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Crews on Monday resumed their search for a bulldozer operator who slid into a West Virginia slurry pond on Friday, and officials stressed that the collapse did not threaten the surrounding community.
Consol Energy spokeswoman Lynn Seay said the company was working with federal and state agencies to determine the best way get to the bulldozer at Consol's Robinson Run operation in Harrison County. Crews began dredging the pond Monday to make way for four barges to get into place to aid in the recovery, said U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration spokeswoman Amy Louviere.
Seay said an investigation into the cause of the collapse of the 200-by-200-foot embankment will begin Tuesday, and further details of the recovery plan are expected to be released on Wednesday.
Over the weekend, the section of the embankment surrounding the holding pond where the collapse occurred was considered unstable and continued to shift, creating difficult conditions for the search. Seay had no update on the status of the embankment Monday.
"Obviously there are safety concerns we need to take into consideration,'' Seay said.
Louviere said the collapse did not pose a threat because the area that failed was inside the impoundment, not outside. Officials could not give an estimated size of the holding pond, or impoundment, which is used to contain both solid refuse and the wastewater product known as slurry.
"We believe there is no public safety threat to the community,'' she said. "The area has been carefully inspected'' by federal and state officials and the company.
In 2000, slurry burst through the bottom of an eastern Kentucky pond and sent goo 6 feet deep into yards and streams, polluting more than 100 miles of waterways.
In the most recent collapse, sonar equipment initially detected an object in the holding pond, which was 12 feet deep. Crews began draining the pond and metal rods were used to confirm the bulldozer's location Saturday. But the slurry's thickness kept divers from going into the holding pond Sunday.
Harrison County emergency services director Paul Bump called the contents of the pond "soupy'' and of "milkshake consistency.''