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Glen Alum Mountain, WV

Wharncliffe

Friday, September 1st, 2006

Penny Loeb is a distinguished author and the web designer for http://www.wvcoalfield.com , who has generously allowed her articles to be reprinted here.

Mary Farley was sound asleep on the couch when the a loud blast went off from the mine above her small house.

“It woke me from a sound sleep,” said the 71-year old Farley. She and her husband built the modest white house 48 years ago. After following her husband’s changing jobs around the country, Farley had returned to live in Wharncliffe. A couple of years ago, she had open-heart surgery and has been slowly recovering She was delighted when her son, who works for a builder of upscale homes in Ohio, treated her to a new kitchen floor.

Then the blasting began from the Mingo Logan Coal Co. (a subsidiary of Arch Coal Inc.) above her house. First the kitchen wall above the sink separated from the ceiling in a 1-inch crack. Next the floor dropped 6 inches in one corner. “I thought the house was coming down around me,” said.

The inspector from the Division of Environmental Protection checked the seismograph records at the mine. He reported that the blasts were all within permitted limits. A spokesman for Mingo Logan confirmed that no violations occurred. Farley is not satisfied: “They have the audacity to tell me they are within the legal limits.”

The adequacy of the standard limit for blasting vibrations is much in question. Usually the DEP limit states that the house nearest to the mine cannot vibrate more than 1 inch per second. Citizens who have been impacted by blasting say that an arbitrary limit does not apply to all areas. It does not account for geological differences that can sometimes amplify vibrations and make some houses more susceptible to damage. In fact, investigators from the federal Office of Surface Mining ruled that such amplification occurred in Laurel Creek.

Mary Farley's house photo by Penny LoebJust a few houses down from Farley, Melvin Brooks also believes blasting has damaged his house. His Tudor house is much newer, only 15 years old. It is within a half mile of the mine, so he was offered a pre-blast survey. In fact, his house was given three surveys. None showed any significant damages. So when he noticed several new cracks and other changes after the blasting began, Brooks thought he had provable damage.

A fairly large crack appeared in the brick wall in the family room. In the bedroom the frame on the door into the walk-in closet is separating. The hall into the bedroom is tilting to one side. Outside, small cracks are beginning to appear in the roof. But so far, the mine refuses to acknowledge the damage. Two representatives from the mine have examined the damage, as has the adjuster from Brooks’ insurance company. All three called the damage inconsequential and attributed it to settling. “We don’t know what to do,” Brooks said.

Brooks, whose house is just to the left of the one in the photo, is a certified (blasting) shot fireman. He did blasting in deep mines before becoming a teacher. Since he and his wife are both teachers, they aren’t home for the blasts during the day. But they are there for the one set off around 5 p.m. At least three times, those have blasts have been unusually large. It seems, Brooks said, that the men are in a hurry at the end of the day and shoot too hard.

2 Responses to “Wharncliffe”

  1. anthony webb Says:

    i was a blaster on ben creek at frasure creek mining and all them people want is a easy check. id get complaints and hadnt shot that day,. u people need to grow up

  2. Unable to leave a name Says:

    If all we want is an easy check why does the mines settle with us? My fathers house/foundation was damaged due to blasting and was falling in on itself and the mining company settled with him and fixed the damage done to the house, my question is why would they pay (28,000 in repairs to the house as well as paying for the water well [only source of water for the house]) if they didnt feel that the blast is what caused the damage? You can sit in my home, many times a day, and feel the blast when they are shot. It is so bad sometimes that it will shake things off my walls! I don’t in any way wish that it be stopped as I have family that works on surface mines but the blast should be more regulated and constant checks on the impact that it has around the areas to ensure safety of the families around should be done. Its not to much to ask that we worry at bit more about the impact blasting has on local families!

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