Bandmill (A.T. Massey, formerly Pittson)


            For more than three years, Everett Dickerson of Kistler kept careful records of the blasts at the Pittson mine on the mine above his house. When his neighbors started to have blasting problems a few blocks away, he showed them how to make lists, too.

            But now Dickerson has given up. The lists and complaints didn’t do much good. The only thing that might help now, he says, would be a lawyer.

            This mine, which was owned by Pittson until mid-1998, stretches along the top of the mountain on the north side of Route 10, reaching from Taplin to Kistler. The mine ceased operation for about a year while it was being sold to a subsidiary of A.T. Massey but reopened early in 1999.

            About 110 houses in Kistler and Taplin are within half a mile of the blasting. Kistler is a tight little community with houses close together on narrow streets. Several residents described the blast as reverberating through the neighborhood. “Blast today at 8:36a.m. shook trailer and scared everyone in the neighborhood,” Cornella Morgan told the DEP inspector on April 23, 1998. Larry Conn, a teacher, told DEP that the blast shook their house on March 6, 1998. “Very upset that blasting seems unregulated.”

            The DEP inspector was not as assiduous as those for Evergreen and Paynter Branch. But his investigation of the blasting complaints did shed some light on why particular blasts caused problems. When Larry Bragg complained that a blast on Aug. 21, 1999, “shook his house really bad,” the inspector noted that the blast included “pre-split holes, which are usually very loud.” A number of blasts examined were a combination of pre-split and production blasts.

            Interestingly, a month before that problematic blast on Aug. 21, the inspector had recommended that the mine “use more delays in pre-split shots to cut down noise levels and reduce number of complaints.” It doesn’t appear that the delays were changed.

            Larry Conn reported that the blast on March 10, 1999, shook his house. The inspector wrote that the blast was “on a point with two open sides and weather was cloudy with light snow contributing to increased air blast.”

            As for the blast on April 23, 1998 that scared everyone, the inspector found it was “parts of three holes un-detonated in previous blast. Would have been very loud.”



            We examined 182 blasts, of which 51 caused problems. This mine was different from the others because we examined blasts in 1997 and 1998 as well as 1999 and 2000. This is because the mine did not operate for part of 1999, and people had given up keeping complete records by 2000. We also had to use a different kind of blasting log, with different information for the 1997 and 1998 blasts. Mine officials could only find the records kept by the blasting contractor, but not the official logs that were kept when the mine had a different owner.

            There seemed to be four factors associated with the problem blasts: location, amount of powder per delay, combined pre-split and production, and unusual shots.

            This mine had the third largest blasts, after Elk Run and Evergreen. When the blasts were the closest to houses (3,600 feet), the problems came from those of more than 900 pounds per delay and in just two of the grids.

            With the older blasts, the problem ones usually were again in just a dozen grids and had higher powder factors (more than 1 and as high as 1.5). There were a few other blasts with high powder factors in those grids. But they were mostly just production shots, and did not pre-split at the same time.

            As the DEP inspector noted, pre-split shots did prove to be troublesome most of the time. Of the 29 combined production and pre-split shots among the 100 older shots, 22 caused problems.

Continue to in-depth analyses of blasting problems in nine communities: