KIAH CREEK/FRANCIS CREEK
"Due to the Blasting NoticeDue to the shaking of my house very hard at timesWe want to be able to hear these, or be notified so as to be aware of shots when close to usSo as they wont be as much as a shock." The Lowes, 7-23-99, in a petition to DEP, signed by 12 members of the Lowe family.
Numerous members of the Lowe family live along Copley Trace Branch of Kiah Creek, about 14 miles southeast of Harts in Lincoln County. Two parts of Pen Coals surface mine complex stretch for two miles in both directions on the mountains behind their homes. A couple parts of the mine are just over 1,000 feet from their homes.
Blasting has been bothering the Lowes and their neighbors for several years, which is why they asked DEP for a hearing when Pen Coal applied for an addition of another 11.84 acres. They have filed a number of complaints, which describe their feelings quite dramatically: "Blast at 11:00 on 3/2/00 jarred house hard." "Shot on 12/15/99 at 3:16 p.m. shook house, Bad Vibrations, dont know how long he can stand it. Blasting is getting really bad."
Mevin Lowe can take a visitor around his house and garage and show the cracked cement blocks and broken window that he believes were caused by blasting. "Why should anyone come in here and make it so you can't be in the house?" he asked. Not only is there blasting, but at night, he and his wife can hear the machinery working up on the mountain. "They say turn the TV up. Why should I turn the TV up?" He tried to get the mine to shut down between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. "In the city, they have ordinances," he said. He recalled when he worked in Michigan, the city ordered the company to shut down the blast furnace at night because it was too loud.
Damage at Melvin Lowe's home
Oddly, when they are outside in the yard, they sometimes dont feel a blast. However when they are inside, the walls and windows shake and pictures rattle. According to Mark Trimble of Vibratech, this has occurred at another mine where he did tests with a seismograph. He said that the frequency of the vibrations of the blast are in the range that will cause the house to vibrate. Pen Coal did not report many seismograph readings, but 12 of the 16 reported were for blasts noted as bothersome. All but two frequencies were within the range of 4 to 11 Hz, which a study by the Bureau of Mines found would cause a house to vibrate.
Pen Coal officials discount the complaints about blasting. More than any other mine, its officials attribute the problems to a certain kind of person who lives near the mines. It isnt so much that they are bothered by blasting, one official said. Its that they want money. He said Pen Coal has paid for broken items, but people keep coming back with requests for jobs, donations, or money. Pen Coal officials believe at least one family has a phone chain. If one person feels a blast, he or she calls the others so that they can complain also. Patty Lowe said that people are just very upset about the dust from the trucks going up the road up to the mine and the nuisance from the blasting.
Some of the citizens impacted by Pen Coals blasting were involved in a lawsuit over blasting from another nearby mine. The same Charleston lawyers, John Sutter and John Mitchell, who did the Bim case also brought that case. It was settled in the summer of 1999 for an undisclosed amount. The money wasn't important for Melvin Lowe. "I would have liked to have had it in court to let people know what goes on," he said. The Lowes, however, have not seen any change in the blasting since the lawsuit.. They are worried that Pen Coals proposed permit will just cause them more problems.
When Melvin Lowe spoke at the hearing on the permit, a Pen Coal official accused him of trying to shut down the mine. Lowe replied that he worked in the deep mines for 23 years, and wants mining to continue. That's not the issue. "I told them why don't you come and sit here (at his house) and see the problems."