Blackwater is a form of pollution produced in coal preparation.[1][2] In its purification, coal is crushed in a coal preparation plant and then separated and transported as a coal slurry, From the slurry, incombustible materials are removed and the coal can be sized. After the recovery of the coal particles from this slurry, the remaining water is black, contains very fine particles of coal. This blackwater cannot be processed in a water treatment plant.[3][why?]


This article is missing information about specifics about environmental damage — currently only talks about flooding-mass damage. Please expand the article to include this information. Further details may exist on the talk page. (July 2022)

Impoundments for storage of blackwater and other coal-related wastes have a troubled history with often severe environmental consequences.

In February 1972, three dams holding a mixture of coal slurry 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. As discussed in the book The Buffalo Creek Flood: An Act of Man, 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".[4]

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.[5]

Other slurry disasters

Future technologies

This section is missing information about work to deal with existing blackwater (under a "coal washery rejects / slurry" heading) — been a thing in India since 2007 (US DoE presentation). Please expand the section to include this information. Further details may exist on the talk page. (July 2022)

The ultimate solution to the blackwater problem is to process coal without the use of water.[according to whom?] Such dry-separation technologies are under development.[when?][by whom?][6]


  1. ^ Fitz Patrick, J. A.; Vallario, R. W. (1981). "Modelling and Control of Blackwater Treatment in Coal Preparation". Separation Science and Technology. 16 (10): 1633–1666. doi:10.1080/01496398108058319.
  2. ^ Rey, P. A.; Hogg, R.; Aplan, F. F. (1983-04-29). "Control of blackwater in coal preparation plant recycle and discharge. Open file report Oct 79 – Sep 82 (final)". OSTI 5842936. ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  3. ^ Shiao-Hung Chiang and James T. Cobb "Coal Conversion Processes, Cleaning and Desulfurization" in Kirk-othmer Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology Wiley-VCH, 2000. doi:10.1002/0471238961.0312050103080901.a01
  4. ^ "Environmental Justice Case Study: Buffalo Creek Disaster". Retrieved October 10, 2006.
  5. ^ "Massey Valley Fill Disaster, Lyburn, WV". 2002-07-19. Retrieved April 3, 2005.
  6. ^ D. Woodruff and L. Macnamara, "Treatment of coal tailings" in "The Coal Handbook: Towards Cleaner Production" D Osborne, Ed. Woodhead Publishing, 2013. Print ISBN 0-85709-422-X. Web ISBN 978-0-85709-730-9