Abandoned Coal Refuse Slurry Dam Failure

Abandoned Coal Refuse Slurry Dam Failure Overview

West Virginia

The project involved an approximately 5-acre abandoned coal refuse slurry dam in West Virginia that failed due to heavy rains. The failure sent about 1 million cubic yards of slurry, coal refuse, and debris into the right fork of a nearby stream. The displaced material also blocked a roadway, stranding numerous families in the nearby hollow.

GAI met with the client two days after the event to discuss a work directive issued under their emergency guidelines. Within a month, GAI developed 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. The project was divided into two phases encompassing removal of the debris to clear the roadway and the right fork, and reconstruction of the slurry embankment. Work on both phases followed a 24-hour, 7-days-a-week schedule.

GAI completed the investigation and planning process for the second phase of the project while the first phase was underway. Embracing the urgency requested by the client, GAI was able to provide solutions under an accelerated work schedule that re-established the integrity of the impoundment and restored the natural beauty of the site. GAI also provided periodic construction monitoring, and the project was successfully completed within eight months.

This project won the National Award for Most Outstanding Abandoned Mine Lands Reclamation.

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