MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- The operator of a Barbour County coal slurry dam that hasn't been certified by a professional engineer in more than two years has until June 3 to get the job done and to pay federal regulators more than $13,500 in fines, a federal judge says.
For months, Energy Marketing Co. Inc. and its owner, Dominick LaRosa, of Potomac, Md., have ignored a civil lawsuit by the U.S. Mine Safety and Health administration. In a ruling issued Friday, U.S. District Judge John Preston Bailey noted that neither has even hired an attorney.
There is therefore no reason to hold a hearing on the government's motion that LaRosa and his company stop operating the potentially dangerous North Hollow dam near Century, Bailey said.
LaRosa did not immediately respond to a message left at his home Monday.
State regulators revoked the impoundment's permit earlier this year. The Department of Environmental Protection is now working to hire an engineering firm that will assess the structure and develop a plan to drain off the soupy wastewater. Part of the task is to determine how much slurry is in the impoundment.
Slurry is the waste created when coal is washed to help it burn cleaner.
In central Appalachia, companies use impoundments to dispose of "coarse refuse" -- larger pieces of rock separated from coal -- and "fine refuse" -- clay, silt and sand-size particles. Fine refuse is pumped into the reservoir behind the coarse refuse. Over time, the "fines" are supposed to settle to the bottom, compressing and solidifying.