Coal slurry

Coal slurry

Coal slurry consists of solid and liquid waste and is a by-product of the coal mining and preparation processes. It is a fine coal refuse and water. Mining generates enormous amounts of solid waste in the form of rocks and dirt. This refuse is used to dam the opening of a hollow between adjacent mountains.

After the dam is built, the void behind it is typically filled with millions of gallons of waste slurry from a coal preparation plant. This impounded liquid waste can sometimes total billions of gallons in a single facility.

High-profile disasters associated with these slurry impoundments have called into question their safety. In February 1972, three dams holding a mixture of coal slurry and water in Logan County, West Virginia failed in succession: 130,000,000 US gallons (490,000 m3) of toxic water were released in the Buffalo Creek Flood. Out of a population of 5,000 people, 125 people were killed, 1,121 were injured, and over 4,000 were left homeless. The flood caused 50 million dollars in damages. Despite evidence of negligence, the Pittston Coal Company, which owned the compromised dam, called the event an "Act of God."[1] In 2002, a 900-foot (270 m) high, 2,000-foot (610 m) long valley fill in Lyburn, West Virginia failed and slid into a sediment pond at the toe of the fill, generating a large wave of water and sediment that destroyed several cars and houses.[2]



Coal slurry contains a large range of constituents, including dissolved minerals that have been leached or washed out of the coal and other rocks. In addition, the slurry contains chemicals added to facilitate the washing or water re-use processes. One of these chemicals is acrylamide. Other chemicals found in the slurry and sludge include the following:


List of slurry disasters

See also

  • Aberfan, the town in Wales where Pantglas Junior School was buried in slurry, claiming the lives of 144 people, 116 of whom were children
  • Martin County sludge spill
  • Sludge (film)
  • The Buffalo Creek Flood: An Act of Man
  • Tailings dam