Abandoned Coal Refuse Slurry Dam Failure

Abandoned Coal Refuse Slurry Dam Failure Overview

West Virginia

The project is an approximate 5-acre abandoned coal refuse slurry dam in West Virginia that failed due to heavy rains. The failure sent approximately 1 million cubic yards of slurry, coal refuse, and debris into the right fork of a nearby stream. The displaced material also blocked the road, stranding numerous families in a nearby hollow. Divided into two phases, the project encompassed removing the debris to clear the roadway and the right fork, and reconstructing the slurry embankment. Work on both phases followed a 24-hour, 7-day week work schedule.

GAI met with the client two days after the event to discuss a work directive issued under their emergency guidelines. Within a month, GAI completed the challenging task of developing engineering plans, drawings, and specifications for emergency stabilization of the embankment. The plans addressed excavating and regrading the refuse to establish stable slopes, locating mine portals on the site, and demolishing any remaining structures and foundations. GAI also provided periodic construction monitoring and the project was successfully completed within eight months.

GAI completed the investigation and planning process for the second phase of the project, while the first phase of the project was under way. Embracing the urgency requested by the client, GAI provided solutions that re-established the integrity of the impoundment and restored the natural beauty of the site under an accelerated work schedule. The project was awarded the National Award for Most Outstanding Abandoned Mine Lands Reclamation.

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