Take Route 52 north from Corridor G. Drive through Kermit. Go another half a mile. Turn right across the railroad tracks. On the left will be a tunnel through the mountain for the long coal trains. Ahead on the right, the community of Marrowbone Creek proudly announces itself. And further down on the right flows the river that gave the community its name.
If you stand just to the right of the sign, you can see the new Quintain mountaintop mine. It's about a mile up the road from the entrance to Marrowbone Creek.
Just as in some other communities, blasting is what bothers many residents the most. In September 1996, Eva and Ezra Pack drilled a new well. Tests showed the water was of satisfactory quality. In the Summer of 1997, the blasting began as Quintain started to remove the mountaintop. By September, the water in the Packs' well had turned orange. By December, the orange had grown deeper and more bothersome. The Packs must now buy a gallon of drinking water a day for them and their four children.
At first the blasts were just a boom. By early January 1998, they had become a boom and then a quiver, according to Eva Pack. Sometimes the blasts come at night, she said, even though blasting after sunset is only permitted in exceptional circumstances.
Though the mine across Marrowbone Creek looms above the Packs' home, they weren't offered a pre-blast survey by the mine. This offer is required for all property owners within half a mile of the mine. No one gave the Packs any information about their rights under the law. Mines are required to replace water supplies that they destroy or damage. But many coalfield residents have a hard time winning the replacement wells from mines.
As you drive up the road past the Packs' house, past the well-kept Brewer cemetery, you may have to dodge deep potholes. In places, the road has given way under overweight coal trucks, according to one resident who works for a nearby mine. During the work week, the trucks come as often as one every two or three minutes. It's better to drive through a pothole and stay on your side of the road than to cross the yellow line and meet a coal truck head on.