Abandoned Mine Land

West Virginia Morning
West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Thinking back on a tradition that’s been carried on in your family probably isn’t too hard. The Thanksgiving Turkey, or celebrating Christmas morning, or even just watching cartoons with your siblings on Saturday morning.

For one family in Lincoln County, West Virginia, the tradition is building furniture. Inside Appalachia folklife reporter, Caitlin Tan, visited the shop and brings us their story.

A surface mine in Letcher County, Kentucky. The reclaimed part of the mine is seeded with grass.
Reid R. Frazier / The Allegheny Front

From solar farms in Virginia to a green energy subdivision in Kentucky, a new report by a group of regional advocacy organizations highlights 20 ready-made projects across the Ohio Valley that could give abandoned mining operations that were never cleaned up a second life, and create new economic opportunity across the region.

 

Roxy Todd/ West Virginia Public Broadcasting

Can apples grow on an abandoned mine site? That’s a question the West Virginia National Guard is spending more than $5 million to find out.

West Virginia was given $30 million in 2016 to invest in economic development projects across the state. The money came from the 2015 omnibus federal spending bill passed by Congress. There was a catch, though—groups would have to build their projects on former Abandoned Mine Land sites. 


Underground Fires, Toxins in Unfunded Cleanup of Old Mines

Jan 28, 2017
Rob Rice, left, chief of the West Virginia Office of Abandoned Mine Lands and Reclamation, and planner Jonathan Knight check on the smoldering underground fire at a long-abandoned coal mine in Preston County, W.Va.
Michael Virtanen / Associated Press

PRESTON COUNTY — An underground coal mine fire burns beneath a sprawling hillside in West Virginia, the pale, acrid smoke rising from gashes in the scarred, muddy earth only a stone's throw from some houses.

 

The fire, which may have started with arson, lightning or a forest fire, smoldered for several years before bursting into flames last July in rural Preston County. The growing blaze moved the mine to the top of a list of thousands of problem decades-old coal sites in West Virginia awaiting cleanup and vying for limited federal funds.

 

West Virginia's U.S. senators say they have joined 20 colleagues in a letter to Senate and House leaders calling for the passage this year of legislation to protect health care for 12,500 retired coal miners.

Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito say retirees and their families will otherwise lose health care coverage Dec. 31.

Water Outages and Advisories Continue in W.Va. Coalfields

While the chemical spill in Charleston left more than 300,000 without usable water, it's a problem that folks in the coalfields deal with on a regular basis.

Last week, we heard stories of the water smelling of licorice, emptied shelves once stocked with bottled water, and other quests for clean water.  The water crisis in West Virginia's capital city lasted just a few weeks, but folks in the coalfields continue to deal with boil water advisories and outages.

Mountainous regions like southern West Virginia have an abundance of water, but the terrain along with aging infrastructure have been creating access issues for decades. Many of the current water systems in place today in the coalfields were installed in the early 1900's by coal companies. Coal operators, jobs, and most people left the area, leaving remnants of a once bustling economy including some beautiful buildings, coal tipples, and water systems. 

For some communities a boil water advisory is a way of life, like in Keystone, West Virginia, in McDowell County, where residents have been on an advisory since 2010. The town's neighboring sister city, Northfork, has been on a boil water advisory since 2013.

Daniel Walker

This week, we’ve been talking about water in the coalfields. We met folks that deal with frequent water outages and boil water advisories because of crumbling water systems, and heard stories of folks living with no water source at all. We also learned that proper sewage disposal is still a challenge.

 

Progress has been made. Just this past year, the Elkhorn Water Project began. It's expected to bring clean water to folks living in several coal camp communities along Route 52 in McDowell County. A project in Wyoming County is expected to bring a permanent solution to water issues in Bud and Alpoca.

Nikthestoned / wikimedia Commons

Proposals to fund drinking water projects in four West Virginia counties have been rejected by federal regulators.
 

Congressman Nick Joe Rahall is looking into the water situation in Alpoca/Bud in Wyoming County.

The long-term fix, known as the Covel project, will bring a new transmission main to serve the Bud/Alpoca area. The Eastern Wyoming Public Service District (PSD), in partnership with the Wyoming County Commission, has taken steps to repair the existing water system.

The Covel project has nearly a $5.7 million price tag, all of which – except for $125,000 – is Abandoned Mine Land (AML) funding.