Coxton resident Floyd Hamlin said a landslide near his home is threatening three residences in the area. He said rocks, mud and trees continue to slide down the mountain daily.
“I first began seeing muddy water coming off the mountain in March,” said Hamlin. “I went to Harlan and talked to several people, including my magistrate Jonathan Pope, and he sent Emergency Management Director David McGill up here to look at the area.”
McGill was contacted and he said he was called to the scene of a mudslide in the Coxton area on two occasions and he went to investigate both times.
“I took pictures and documented the situation. I then notified the state, which is pretty much my role in this type of situation,” said McGill. “We thought this might be a mine issue and the Department of Abandoned Mines was notified. I was told there were some abandoned mines in the area.”
Hamlin said the property, owned by Manalapan Mining, had been contracted out for logging in 2001.
“I went up on the mountain myself and I saw the highwall, where you walk around the logging road, and the cut that was made is about 6 or 7 feet high,” said Hamlin. “There was water running off the mountain over the highwall onto the logging road and cutting gaps in the mountainside. In 1978 or 1979, Kentucky Utilities cut a road on top of the mountain to install a big utility pole. They drilled and shot to construct a concrete base for the pole. Then, they cut a road across the holler and broke the main top loose. In 1982, there was a mudslide in this same area, which covered everything up and came all the way to the road. This slide now has to be coming from the logging that was done in this area, but no one wants to admit who’s responsible. Something needs to be done before these homes are covered up with mud, trees and rocks and someone is killed.”
Hamlin said statements were made to him that “the whole pinnacle was breaking all the way to the top of the mountain.”
“We’re talking about enough dirt to set my house, Bridgette Pace and another family’s home all the way to the railroad,” said Hamlin. “It’ll fill this whole area in when it all comes off. I can’t sleep at night for fear of waking in the middle of the night with mud coming through our home. I sit out on my porch in the wee hours of the morning and listen to trees falling and rocks rolling off the mountain. You can hear dirt moving. Before it got green you could actually see the slide moving.”
In a letter written in April to Hamlin from Program Development Branch Manager Bill Overman with the Kentucky Department for Natural Resources in Frankfort, Overman said personnel from that division’s London and Frankfort offices investigated the landslide problems in March and April.
In that letter Overman said, “We have been unable to find evidence to show that the primary cause of your problems is from old coal mining. The problem area is not physically connected to a mine, and we found no evidence of mine-related drainage as the primary cause of the problem. Analysis of water sampled at the problem site failed to indicate the chemical characteristics of water coming from a mine-related source.
“The slide appears to have originated from a utility easement that exists high on the slope above your home, and the failure appears to have originated from a utility easement that exists high on the slope above your home, and the failure appears to be lubricated by natural groundwater.”
After contacting Kentucky Utilities Company, Cliff Feltham, a representative for the company, said “The upshot of our research and investigation of the location is that it appears all our poles and infrastructure are in good shape and there is only evidence of minor natural ground erosion below our lines — nothing associated with anything we’ve done. We’ve not done work above Coxton Camp in a number of years. We had a tree foreman walk the mountain ridge to locate any trees that might affect our line in that area and he said our facilities are safe and there were no signs of any broken ground around our poles.”
Feltham said they use a helicopter to fly over their remote transmission lines periodically to inspect them. He said they responded to an inquiry in April by Joann Pace (who owns one of the homes near the mudslide area) and their transmission employee said they “didn’t find anything that was out of the ordinary.”
“We had another employee walk the area about two weeks ago and he felt it looked like erosion below our facilities farther down the mountain, and were possibly due to heavy rains in recent weeks or underground mines that are located on the mountain,” said Feltham.
Attempts to contact Manalapan Mining were unsuccessful.
“We’ve contacted everybody we know to contact and nothing is being done,” said Hamlin. “I just hope no one gets hurt when all this dirt comes down at once and eventually it will. I just went up there a few days ago and I don’t know how anyone could say this is just erosion. This is a really dangerous situation and no one seems to care.”
Reach Nola Sizemore at 606-573-4510 or at firstname.lastname@example.org