After the council approved the settling of a four year old lawsuit, Lynch Mayor Johnny Adams said he has the city’s future at heart and hopes this action will ensure the city’s water system will be safe for many years to come.
During a special called meeting on Thursday, four council members voted yes to settle and two council members, Winston Yeary and Bennie Massey, adamantly voted no.
Adams said approximately four years ago the city challenged two strip mining permits to Meadow Branch permit No. 848-5477 and Harlan Reclamation Services permit No. 848-5503, along with some underground mining from Virginia to the city’s reservoir in the Lynch No. 30 Mine, located behind the old Lynch Depot. He said the city joined with Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, Bennie Massey, Stanley Sturgill, Roy Silver and Carl Shoope in filing the original permits appeal.
Adams said approximately 80 years ago while mining the Lynch No. 30 Mine, U.S. Steel hit water. He said at that time the citizens of Lynch depended on well water, so U.S. Steel constructed a reservoir in the mine for the city. He also said when U.S. Steel left the area an agreement was signed with the city allowing the use of the water for a leasing fee, which the city “never paid.”
“The idea behind the lawsuit was that no one wanted to see our mountains damaged with mountain top mining,” said Adams. “Everyone concerned just wanted our water to be protected and wells drilled as a secondary source should anything happen to our reservoir. I love Lynch and want to see it continue as a city. I think by settling this lawsuit it’s one way of ensuring we’ll stay a city for years to come.”
In the proposed settlement agreement, ACIN, LLC and Resource Development, LLC agreed to provide an alternative water supply by drilling wells into the Kellioka Seam to meet the demands of the city. They agreed to pay for the construction of the well and necessary appurtenances to connect the well to the city’s existing water intake system. The city will be responsible for ongoing maintenance and improvements to the system and the power bill associated with it.
Also in the agreement was all proposed and future mining operations within the petition area would incorporate the following standard conditions into their permit applications or approved permits unless modification is approved by all parties to the settlement agreement:
“Except in the case of approved valley fills and contingent upon approval by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the use of in-stream sedimentation ponds shall be minimized and to the maximum extent practicable under current laws and regulations, all drainage from any disturbed area shall be managed through bench and off-stream structures.”
“To the extent practicable under current mining practices and prevailing geological conditions, and subject to the cabinet’s approval, the fill placement optimization process described previously will be followed.”
Included in the settlement was that a pre-blast survey will be offered and conducted at Portal 31, along with a structural pre-blast survey being offered and conducted for all property owners and utilities in the city. A seismograph will be installed at Portal 31 whenever blasting occurs within one-quarter mile of the site.
ACIN will forgive any outstanding debt or obligations due or owing from an agreement signed between the city and U.S. Steel on Oct.4, 1963. ACIN will allow the city to use the U.S. Steel Reservoir as their municipal water supply without any guarantee as to the availability, quantity or quality of the water. No operators will be permitted to intentionally impact the U.S. Steel Reservoir to enhance coal recovery. They agreed to provide all protections for the reservoir bulkheads as required by all applicable laws and consistent with sound engineering design.
The city, along with the Tri-Cities Utility Authority, will receive an immediate monetary settlement. The settlement will begin after the execution of the settlement agreement and the city will receive payments each year thereafter through Jan. 25, 2017. All annual payments will be placed in escrow as long as the Lands Unsuitable Petition or any appeal related remains pending before any administrative or judicial tribunal. If the Lands Unsuitable Petition is denied in whole, all payments in escrow will be released to the city and all future payments will be made without escrow.
Conditions on all payments will be conditioned upon neither the city nor the Tri-Cities Utility Authority initiating, intervening in or supporting the filing of any further Lands Unsuitable for Mining Petitions.
“Others involved in the lawsuit will continue on,” said Adams. “This is just the city pulling out — not anyone else. This does not stop any individual from filing a future lawsuit — the city as a whole just can’t file anything more after this settlement. We voted on a resolution to withdraw from this lawsuit and settling on our own — that’s what we passed.”
Yeary and Massey both agreed they are still afraid if mining occurs their water supply, which they said is “some of the purest in the state,” will be destroyed.
“What if something happens to our reservoir and they drill wells and it’s sulfur water?” asked Yeary.
Massey said once mining begins he fears Portal 31 “will be gone because when blasting occurs no one will be allowed inside the portal.”
“Are you willing to take a risk of this? And, if you lose the water we have we can’t get it back,” said Massey. “It ain’t worth it boys — it just ain’t worth it. We have the best water in the state of Kentucky. We could take our water and sell it all over the state, but once you destroy it — ain’t no putting it back. Won’t you focus on putting a water distribution company here and provide jobs to the city. We’re the only city that, if something happened, could supply water to Benham and Cumberland as well as our own citizens. This is the only thing I have against this, but you do what you want to do.”
Reach Nola Sizemore at 606-573-4510 or at email@example.com