Impacts of the Martin County Coal Slurry Spill on Fishery Resources in Eastern Kentucky Streams: A Case Study

On 11 October 2000, approximately 946.25 million liters of coal slurry waste spilled from a Martin County Coal Corporation impoundment into 2 stream drainages in Martin County, Kentucky. On the same day of the spill occurrence, water quality was assessed and periodic monitoring has continued to the present by state personnel from Kentucky and West Virginia. The resulting damage to fish in the streams was the focus of intensive investigation by both the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources and the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources. In addition to water quality measurements (pH and dissolved oxygen) an assessment of the fish kill in Coldwater Fork, Panther Fork, Wolf Creek, and the Tug Fork River, was conducted. The loss of fish resources from the streams were calculated based on existing data, and American Fisheries Society monetary values were utilized for assessed value. Personnel from both agencies concluded that there was a total fish kill in 92.8 km of stream including Coldwater Fork, Panther Fork, Wolf Creek, and the Tug Fork River. An estimated total number of 1,657,503 fish weighing 83,199.04 kg were killed. Kentucky and West Virginia losses totaled $563,927.56 for the fish kill and manpower used for investigation. Clean up of the spill has been extensive; however, substantial material remains in the streams and fishery resources continue to be compromised. It is unclear when the material from the spill will cease to impact the streams affected.

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