The Richmond Register

Local News

July 8, 2012

Washed away dreams

Floyd County man fears effects of surface mining

(Continued)

HUEYSVILLE —

“We want to get the right answer and not an answer right away,” Hohmann said.
The water runs into a little unnamed creek beside Handshoe’s house. Sometimes it foams like laundry detergent, a sign the pH level is so low something is destroying the organic materials in the water. Two landslides on the mountain have grown and moved recently. 
Testing by the environmental group Appalachian Voices shows the water contains 100 times more aluminum than fresh water; 44 times as much iron; and manganese, which can cause developmental defects and Parkinson’s disease, at 129 times fresh water standards.
It’s only Handshoe’s most recent problem.
He is surrounded, under siege. On three sides of his house are mountaintop mining operations. He lives within a half mile of nine valley fills where the “overburden” — the trees, soil and rock which is blasted away to get at small seams of coal — has been shoved into adjacent valleys or “hollers.”
One covers the mouth of Raccoon Creek which runs through Handshoe’s property across Highway 7 from his house and collects water from the other small creek. It’s where as a child Handshoe trapped minnows. It’s where he hoped to build that dream home. No more. Nothing lives in the creek now.
Contaminated water
Handshoe said his physician, Dr. Ira Potter, told him not to water his garden with creek water and not to eat any animal which may have drunk water on his property. Handshoe is awaiting results from blood tests the doctor ordered to see if metals have built up in his body.
At the head of Raccoon Creek is a one-acre settlement pond, maintained by James River Coal, the company which owns the mine site above it. A settlement pond is supposed to allow toxic minerals to sink to the bottom while the surface water seeps through a pipe at the top of the retaining bank at the other end.

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