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Until Memorial Day 2004, Barbara Ingram loved her four acres at the head of Copperas Mine Fork better than anything in the world.
"I've got so I hate this place," she said the evening of June 13--after another heavy rain.
Garbage bags full of clothes still sat in her living room. She had stuffed them full of treasures when the rain started, ready to leave again.
Barb Ingram looks at the creek after June 13 rain.
(Right) A cut log is stuck in the creek towards top center of photo.
She and her late husband had started in a tiny house they built themselves. When they had saved enough from their jobs, they put in a single-wide trailer. More recently, she put in a double-wide, too, and gave her daughter the single-wide. Then she built her son a house up on the hill at one end of the property.
Their four acres were lovely, tranquil. Until Massey Energy's Alex Energy mine started a valley fill at the head of the hollow a few years. Until logging bared the earth on the hillside opposite their house. Until the mine started circling the four acres on three sides.
The night of the first storm, water rushed out of the head of the hollow, leaving the crossing of the stream too deep for cars.
Stream from head of hollow runs strong and muddy after the June 13 storm.
Down the opposite mountain came another roaring river, carrying cut logs from the timber job. Scariest of all was the collapse of part of the hill behind the original house. The only thing that saved the buildings was an old tub at the back side of the house.
Slide behind Ingram's houses.
The slide scares Ingram the most because future storms could bring down more earth. The hill belongs to the land company, not Ingram. Theoretically, the land company should fix the slide. But Ingram was afraid to call because she had cut trees and brush off the hill. She had been given the go ahead by the land company that had owned the land previously.
"I've never asked for help before," she said. "I always help others."
She called the phone number given out on TV, but was told she would have to take a Small Business Administration Loan. Not an expense she can afford right now.
(Left) Culvert near the ravine below the logging site is still clogged with logs. (Right) Bridge to Ingram's houses nearly washed out.
The Alex Energy mine spreads across the mountain and reaches over to Riffe Branch. This an area that has suffered through a half dozen years of mountaintop removal and water loss from deep mining. An earlier mountaintop mine shook houses so badly at the north end of the creek that residents won a lawsuit over the blasting. A Massey Energy deep mine took water from nearly 200 homes along the southern end of Riffe Branch and Duncan Fork. DEP ordered Massey to replace the water for at least two decades. Citizens have won the first phase of a lawsuit against Massey, as well.
The Alex Energy mine has only been there a few years. But local residents found it contributed to runoff during the storms. Bruce Marcum went up to the fill after the Memorial Day storm and photographed deep gullies cut by runoff from the valley fill and sediment ditches. The sandy dirt and rocks that spread across the road and nearby lawns was similar to that we saw below eroded valley fills after the 2001 flood. Yet, DEP inspectors told Marcum the mine did not contribute to the storm. (Marcum's photos will be posted soon on this page).
Ralph Preece's lawn is covered with rocks and sandy silt from the stream. His house is within a mile of the valley fill.
The entrance to Riffe Branch was covered with mud and rocks from the runoff higher up in the hollow.