The Richmond Register

Local News

July 8, 2012

Washed away dreams

Floyd County man fears effects of surface mining



The water coming off the mine site is a dark, rusty orange color. It looks a little better at the drainage end, but the pond leaks, and it sometimes overflows. When it does, Raccoon Creek runs orange, sometimes for days.
“We used to have the best water on the creek there,” Handshoe said. “People would come here and get our water it was so good.”
The state is supposed to test the water, inspect the pond and cite the coal company for violations. But it often doesn’t.
No help from state
Handshoe has been asking the state Division of Water and Department of Mine Reclamation and Enforcement for help for years. The retired radio technician for the Kentucky State Police has a GED certificate, but he’s taught himself the skills of a water engineer. He has his own testing devices — he’s careful to buy the same equipment used by state inspectors so they won’t dispute results. He documents each incident with photographs of the stream and the test readings — with a camera which shows the date and time of every photograph.
He’s frequently on the phone to state inspectors. They sometimes come; they sometimes ignore him.
He’s appealed to the governor, to the attorney general, to the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
His elected representatives, state Democratic Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo and U.S. Congressman Hal Rogers, R-Fifth District, say federal environmental regulations represent a “war on coal.”
Last year Handshoe was among mountaintop removal opponents who occupied Gov. Steve Beshear’s office. When Beshear spoke to them, Handshoe invited him to come to Hueysville and see for himself.
In April 2011 Beshear and Len Peters, the secretary of the Energy and Environment Cabinet responsible for permitting mine operations and protecting water quality, came. Peters didn’t visit the pond, but Beshear did.

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