NEIGHBORS OF CUMBERLAND COAL COMPANY TESTIFY AT PUBLIC HEARING
SEEK CLOSURE OF MINE AND DENIAL OF UNDERGROUND MINING PERMIT
On March 26, nearly 100 people attended a Public Hearing held by the TN Department of Environment & Conservation (TDEC) in the Cumberland County Courthouse in Crossville, TN. The issue is the Cumberland Coal Companyıs application to open an underground mine on the same site where they are now surface mining on Crab Orchard Mountain.
About 25 neighbors and area residents testified to property, artesian well, stream and road damage attributed to the surface mining operation. Nine people also made statements at a press briefing before the Hearing that was sponsored by the Hebbertsburg Community Center and religious and environmental groups.
Ted Davidson who lives just 4600 feet from the mine on Smith Mountain Road stated that he has spent $37,000 repairing damage to his home, swimming pool and other buildings caused by the blasting at the mine. His pond develops an uprising after some blasts. He sued in court, but lost because he had had no pre-blasting assessment of his property and wells. This was required by the Cumberland Coal Companyıs (CCC) surface mining permit but was not done and not caught by the Office of Surface Mining regulators. No one in the area was notified as required and no one has been paid for damages. The Davidsonıs have 6 wells on their property and only one is still potable. The odor and taste of the water makes the other wells unusable.
Two other residents attested to well damage on their property and three others raised their hands when asked by a speaker if they had well problems. Others mentioned family and friends with rusty undrinkable water that cannot be handled by purifiers.
At least two dozen raised their hands when asked if they had been driven off the road by coal trucks. Three people reported on the four coal trucks that have turned over this year and one showed pictures of an oily slick and coal in Crab Orchard Creek from spilled coal that took a week to get cleaned up. Several speakers spoke about not trusting the CCC to abide by the law, based on past performance. The fact that all six basins on the property are leaking and have not been adequately repaired after nearly two years of Band-Aid measures leads to their skepticism. The regulators were accused of siding with the CCC and being inadequate to the task of protecting the residentsı property.
Several wanted assurance that premining notifications and assessments of wells would be made in a wide enough area so they could be protected, which did not happen for the surface mining permit. Others expressed doubt that anything could or would be done if the underground mining ruined their wells. The underground mine would pull 6,900,600 cubic feet of water/year from CCC wells which would go into the mine and then be pumped into seeping basins where it would be treated for acid and toxics and then discharged into streams that would become mini-rivers.
Eric Hedgecoth spoke of rust colored shrubbery at flood level along parts of Island Creek after a recent rain, attributable to runoff from the Mine. When his well became rusty, he had another one dug which is now going bad. When he complained about house shaking blasts, and his well, the CCC put a seismograph under his porch for a time, without any paper in it. They claimed no liability.
Environmental activist Donald Clark, speaking for three organizations, got loud applause when he stated that the mine should be closed forthwith, that the five year renewal for surface mining permit should be subject to public comment and be denied. He also echoed othersı comments in stating that no underground mining permit should be issued that employs seeping basins, that all the basins should be replaced and new ones must be constructed for any underground mine.
Jane Johnson representing the Hebbertsburg Community Center asked that the comment period on the CCC underground permit be extended for 30 days more by the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation which the County Executive Brock Hill supported.