LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- In parts of eastern Kentucky, the pictures coming out of Hungary of the red sludge that roared from a factory's reservoir, downstream into the Danube River, are all too reminiscent of what happened a decade ago this week.
A layer of dark goo still sits under a creekbed on Glenn Cornette's land, the leftovers from when a coal company's sprawling slurry pond burst, blackening 100 miles of waterways and polluting the water supply of more than a dozen communities before the stuff reached the Ohio River.
A torrent as wide as a football field and 6 feet deep covered Cornette's property in Martin County, near the West Virginia line and about 175 miles east of Louisville. It killed all manner of plants and cut off his access to the street.
"It just looked like pudding or something," Cornette said recently.
With seven dead so far and at least 120 injured, the 184-million-gallon spill of toxic muck from a Hungarian alumina plant already has proven more dangerous than what's known as the Inez Disaster, but the mess in Kentucky was considerably bigger - about 300 million gallons of slurry, a byproduct of purifying coal, oozed into yards and streams for miles in what was considered one of the South's worst environmental disasters at the time.
A decade later, its effects linger.
The slurry burst through the bottom of the Martin County Coal Corp.'s 68-acre holding pond on the morning of Oct. 11, 2000, sending the toxic goo crashing through an underground mine and into two creeks. There were no human casualties.
"The sludge looked like a flow of black lava," said Mickey McCoy, an Inez resident whose creek was blackened by the spill. "We're not talking brown water, we're talking black, black lava just rolling."
The coal company, a subsidiary of Richmond, Va.-based Massey Energy, eventually paid $46 million for the cleanup, along with about $3.5 million in state fines and an undisclosed sum to residents, including Cornette, who sued over property damages.
Because of the failure, Massey has studied its other slurry ponds, or impoundments, and hired outside experts to prevent another sludge release, company spokesman Jeff Gillenwater said. The impoundment site where the spill occurred is no longer in use, he said.
"The company is proud of the efforts it has undertaken to remediate the spill," Gillenwater said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.
Since the 2000 disaster, there have been 22 coal impoundment spills at Massey-owned sites, according to the Coal Impoundment Location and Information System, a database kept by Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia. Most were minor, and none approached the size of the release at Inez.
There are 285 active slurry ponds in 11 states, according to the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration. More than half are in Kentucky and West Virginia, and with another 71 in Illinois and Pennsylvania.