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Consol Lays Out Recovery Plan For W.Va. Miner

By VICKI SMITH

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) â¿¿ Consol Energy Inc. has two plans to try to recover a bulldozer operator sucked into the Robinson Run slurry impoundment last week, the first involving a 40-foot pipe and a dive team from Louisiana.

Vice President for Safety Lou Barletta gave no time frame for the recovery operations in a media briefing Wednesday but said the first plan involves welding together two 20-foot pipes and lowering them vertically into the massive slurry pond near Lumberport where the dozer has settled.

Divers would enter the pipe through an access door, with an air supply and communications to operations based on barges on the surface, while water jets installed at the bottom of the pipe push away silt. The divers would work by touch in dark, murky water to try to locate the driver so he can be removed.

At the divers' request, Pennsylvania-based Consol has brought another dozer to the staging area so they can study it.

But Consol doesn't know the exact orientation of the dozer, Barletta said, or whether the operator is still in the cab.

Spokeswoman Lynn Seay said the victim's name is being withheld at the request of his family members, who are getting regular briefings on the recovery effort.

"We will wait until they feel ready and comfortable to share that information," she said.

The family was brought to the site Friday night, the same day as the accident that two other workers survived when their pickup trucks also went into the pond.

Though a section of the embankment failed, the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration said there was no risk to the public because the structural problems were inside, not outside, the impoundment.

The pond encompasses about 78 acres and is estimated to hold between 1.6 billion and 1.9 billion gallons of wastewater, the Department of Environmental Protection said. That's the equivalent of more than 2,500 Olympic-sized swimming pools, each of which holds about 600,000 gallons.

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