Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet
Environmental emergency declared in mineral oil spill at onetime coal mine
FRANKFORT, Ky. (Feb. 27, 2006) - An environmental emergency has been declared at a former mine site in Letcher County, where mineral oil contaminated with PCBs has leaked onto the ground and into a nearby stream.
The Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet (EPPC) sought the declaration so that it could quickly hire contractors to begin cleanup operations. The site is near the community of Jeremiah, where the affected stream, Spring Branch, joins Rockhouse Creek, a tributary of the North Fork of the Kentucky River.
EPPC Division of Water personnel investigating a sheen on Spring Branch on Feb. 2 traced it to a former coal mine. Inspectors concluded that two or more large electrical transformers had been stolen from the site and that several hundred gallons of mineral oil from the transformers had been released in the process.
Laboratory tests showed that the oil, which served as a coolant, contained PCBs - polychlorinated biphenyls - a substance now banned as a probable human carcinogen.
Once the spill was discovered, EPPC field personnel worked with booms and absorbent pads to contain the oil. Samples of oil and contaminated soil were collected for testing. A cleanup contractor, along with personnel from the Superfund Branch of the EPPC’s Division of Waste Management, was mobilized to begin cleaning up the site on Feb. 10. Excavated soil was stockpiled and covered on site.
The waste will be properly disposed at a permitted landfill. Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection personnel and a cleanup contractor continue to address residual amounts of the mineral oil in Spring Branch and monitor the waterway.
EPPC’s request became a formal declaration of environmental emergency when Finance and Administration Secretary Robbie Rudolph approved an exception to normal state government rules for procuring contractor services.