Jessica Lilly Published

Buffalo Creek Showing Signs Of New Life, 49 Years After Sludge Spill


Today is the 49th anniversary of one of the worst mining catastrophes in West Virginia history, the Buffalo Creek Disaster. More than 100 people died in southern West Virginia when a dam failed.

Gov. Justice visited the Buffalo Creek Memorial to lay a wreath remembering victims of the disaster. He also met with the Buffalo Creek Watershed for a ceremonial stocking of over 1,400 trout in the creek. Restoration work started about 20 years ago.

In 1972, coal companies said an “act of God” caused a dam holding 132-million gallons of black water to break. State and federal investigations found Pittston Coal was directly to blame for the dam’s failure. The collapse killed 125 people injuring over 1,100, and left 4,000 people homeless.

The watershed is now touted as one of southern West Virginia’s most popular trout streams. The Buffalo Creek Watershed covers about 20 miles of stream from the headwaters of Curtis to the Town of Man. Perry Harvey is a member of the Watershed and a survivor of the disaster.

“I’ve lived on Buffalo Creek all my life…where I still live now,” Harvey said. “It was about an inch from getting in my house, but the water went away from my house. I thank the good Lord up above for that, but we lost 125 of our neighbors.”

The stocking rate for Buffalo Creek has been permanently increased by 10% because of angler access, water quality, and in-stream habitat improvements. Buffalo Creek is also scheduled to receive 2,500 fingerling rainbow trout this spring.

Steve McDaniel, director of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources and Harold Ward from the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, were also at the commemoration event.

According to a release from the governor’s office, the Spring Trout Stocking Initiative and other improvements are expected to bring 1.2 million fish to West Virginia’s waters this year.