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West Virginia University is creating a model to determine the probability of coal mine fires and explosions. The university's Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources is creating the model. The 15-month study will also delve into the roles of moisture and rock and coal dust. The Alpha Foundation awarded the project a $150,000 grant. After buying Massey Energy, who owned the Upper Big Branch coal mine where 29 men died in a 2010 explosion, Alpha agreed to form the foundation and fund $48 million in mine safety projects.
Several West Virginia attractions are participating in the National Endowment for the Arts initiative to offer free admission to active-duty military members and their families. The Blue Star Museums program includes more than 2,000 museums across the country offering the deal starting next week through Labor Day. Next Tuesday, the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences will begin offering free gallery admission to military families. Several other attractions around the state are participating.
The state Public Service Commission has opened an investigation into West Virginia American Water's response to the Jan. 9 chemical spill in Charleston. The PSC says the focus of its investigation will be on whether the company's reaction to the spill and presence of the coal-cleaning agent MCHM was "unreasonable or inadequate." Among other things, the PSC has ordered the company to provide an account of actions it took starting when it became aware of the spill. The commission says drinking water standards, which fall under the jurisdiction of the state Bureau for Public Health, won't be debated. An evidentiary hearing is scheduled for early October. Company spokeswoman Laura Jordan says it will cooperate with the investigation.
Heading into a big travel weekend, gas prices are steady for drivers in West Virginia. We're paying an average of $3.76 for a gallon of gas and AAA East Central says that's the same price as last week and is 15 cents higher than the same week a year ago. Prices range from $3.74 in Charleston and Weirton to $3.81 in Wheeling. Nationally, gas prices average $3.64 per gallon.
A Putnam County standoff ended peacefully, but it wasn't without some tense moments. The nine-hour standoff led to the arrest of 55-year old Ricky Reynolds, who surrendered after law officers used several tactics including tear gas to urge him out of the home. Reynolds is from Scott Depot and faces several charges including fleeing, assault on a police officer and obstructing a police officer, according to a news release from the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department. Reynolds was involved in several hit-and-run accidents Wednesday evening in the Scott Depot area, and was arrested early Thursday morning.
West Virginia environmental regulators have proposed more than $21,000 in fines for a Kanawha County plant that spilled coal slurry into a creek. The fines are for three citations issued after 108,000 gallons of slurry spilled into Fields Creek from Patriot Coal's Kanawha Eagle preparation plant on Feb. 11. Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Tom Aluise told the Charleston Daily Mail that the company is contesting about $20,000 in penalties associated with two orders issued after the spill. One stopped all work except cleanup at the plant. The other was a notice of violation stemming from discolored water entering the Kanawha River during cleanup on Feb. 19.
A conference continues in Charleston today that helps people train for emergencies and natural disasters. West Virginia State University hosted the conference yesterday and today is the final day for the gathering held by The Center for Threat Preparedness and the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources. It's drawing emergency workers including including law enforcement, EMS and social workers from across West Virginia, along with local members of the Kanawha County Ambulance Authority.
The former Mountain State University is suing the Higher Learning Commission over the loss of accreditation. The suit says the commission didn't follow its policies, rules and practices when it revoked the university's accreditation in June 2012 and says the accreditation loss forced the university to close. Without accreditation, the university was no longer eligible for state and federal funding, including student aid. The Charleston Gazette says Bridgeport attorney Jack Merinar filed the lawsuit Tuesday on behalf of three Mountain State board members. The University of Charleston took over Mountain State's Beckley and Martinsburg campuses.
A father called 911 to report that a baby hit his head Tuesday night, and by Wednesday police were investigating after the baby was found dead in his car seat. Now it has turned into a homicide investigation. The father - identified as Jeremy Smith - tried to slit his own throat, but remained alive. It happened in Kanawha City on Venable Avenue, where Smith was found inside the car the the dead infant, who was only a few weeks old, according to police. An autopsy is underway to determine the cause of death. And while Smith was taken into custody by Charleston Police, a separate investigation was happening at a crime scene in Putnam County, and he'll likely also face charges there. There's crime scene tape at a home on Shank Avenue in Hurricane as the investigations continue.
Three teenageres are facing charges after mailbox bombings Saturday on Louden Heights Road, and now there have been two more arrests. Police are working to figure out if the bombings are all related, since they occurred in about the same spot. Detectives aren't ruling out the possibility that individuals besides the ones arrested may be involved, and they may have to cast a wider net. Three juveniles were charged after the Louden Heights bombings, and the others happened on Skyline and Clark roads.