View of the valley sludge pond from the mine entrance end to the dam
Mountaintop removal and reclamation introduces several new landforms to the coal fields. One of the introduced landforms is the "wet refuse impoundment," a structure designed to store the waste from coal preparation plants. At the Goals Preparation Plant in Sundial, an A.T. Massey subsidiary, coal from surrounding mines is cleaned through a process called "flocculation," which separates ash from coal, making the coal lighter to ship and cleaner to burn. Federal clean air and water legislation prohibits the release of waste water from the cleaning process into streams. Coal companies therefore must store the waste water somewhere for chemical treatment and gradual "dewatering." The solution is to store the "fine refuse" in large hollows behind impoundments made of the coarse refuse. These structures, which are hundreds of feet deep, are known locally as "sludge ponds." Sludge ponds in the project study area are located at Shumate's Branch, Marfork, and Elk Run. Shumate's Branch was settled in the first half of the 19th century, and was farmed continuously until the mid-1980s, when Peabody relocated several dozen families and a cemetery in order to create the space required for the sludge dam. (Bone, 1994)
Event: Tour of Shumate's Branch.