It was scary.             HOME

            Just as she turned onto the road across the mountain, two medium sized coal trucks appeared behind Elaine Purkey's car. She had just spent two hours at the community center talking to about two dozen residents of Erbacon about their problems with coal trucks and water loss. The residents said there was a spy at the meeting. And, sure enough, the trucks were ready to roll when Elaine rounded the turn. The trucks road her bumper for three miles. Her 10-year-old grandaughter, Danielle, was in the car, and Elaine was worried. She sighed when relief when the coal trucks continued straight when she turned left and went down the mountain.

    This was October 2000, and the problems with the trucks had been going on nearly half a decade. The trucks use a route along a gravel road across the mountain. Dust whirls up from the road, onto yards and houses and even on children waiting for the bus. Residents have videotaped the trucks and appealed to the police, the highway department and the county commission. Nothing has helped. Instead, the truckers' resentment has just grown. Bill and Wilda Radcliff have been leading the effort against the coal trucks.  The Radcliffs think the solution is simple: blacktop the road. They took a petition to their delegate and were told: "I dont' think anyone in the state of West Virginia will help you."

    Coal trucks aren't the only problem. Deep mines have advanced underneath the small community in the northwest corner of Webster County. About 30 homes have lost their road. Many lie along the ridge with the coal truck problems. A few are about a mile to the northwest.


Joseph Skidmore and other residents of Erbacon live above the deep mine on the left.  Skidmore's water tank (right).

    Joseph Skidmore's well had been abundant: 75 gallons a minute. Then it went dry. He called DEP and the hydrogeologist told him the well had to recharge. That didn't work. He called the coal company. They said to pull the pump and let them mine under. When the mining was done, he could get water from the pool that would fill up the deep mine. He didn't like that idea. So for nearly two years, he has filled up a tanker with water and dumped it down the well. It suffices for a few days of showers, toilets and laundry. They don't drink it. At a meeting in early October, Skidmore told the group simple, he can't read. How can he deal with the bureaucracy of DEP and the mines? The law requires water replacement. But reality requires a sophisticated education to force DEP and the mines to follow the law.