Stanley is unconvinced. He said Brushy Fork is a manmade disaster waiting to happen.
"Impoundments scare me to death because I've worked on them," he said.
The dam has a capacity of more than 8 billion gallons.
Emergency response documents say that if it failed, the resulting flood would hit Pettus in just 12 minutes and the communities of Whitesville, Seng Creek and Sylvester within 36 minutes. It would travel through Orgas and Coopertown in the first 90 minutes to Fosterville, Prenter, Comfort and Bloomingrose. In about three hours, it would hit Racine and Peytona.
Impoundments have failed before, but it's been nearly 40 years since it happened in West Virginia.
In 1972, an earthen dam in Logan County's Buffalo Creek collapsed after heavy rain, unleashing a flood that killed 125 people, injured 1,100 and left about 4,000 homeless.
In 2000, a Massey Energy coal waste dam in Martin County, Ky., failed and released some 300 million gallons of slurry, creating a flood as wide as a football field and 6 feet deep.
No one died when the slurry burst through the bottom of the Martin County Coal Corp.'s 68-acre impoundment, flooding an underground mine and polluting 100 miles of waterways. But Massey eventually paid $46 million for the cleanup.
"I don't think any of them are stable," Stanley said. "I think they're all at risk of failure. And the DEP is not taking this seriously."
Two groups worried about Brushy Fork say a failure there could kill 1,000 people. The dam, they note, was built by the same engineers behind the Martin County project.
Coal River Mountain Watch and the Sludge Safety Project will gather supporters Tuesday outside the OSM office in Charleston. Chief among their concerns is a planned permit renewal and proposed blasting for the Bee Tree Surface Mine, which they fear could destabilize the dam.
Calhoun, at OSM, said testing at Brushy Fork "is a good thing to do."
Though he downplayed concerns about that site, he acknowledged that OSM shares some of Stanley's concerns about impoundments in general and the liquefaction potential. OSM is doing a study it hopes to release this year.
Ward, meanwhile, said the DEP is reviewing construction designs and reports and meeting with engineers to finalize a testing plan for Brushy Fork. If any problems are found, the DEP would require remediation.
How any problem would be fixed is unclear.
"It would be very inappropriate for us to provide any hypothetical remediation plan at this time," he said. "If any conditions are found that raise concerns, they will most likely be very specific and will require specific remediation."
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said the Brushy Fork dam was near Marsh Fork Elementary School.