DEP Reviewing Impact of Proposed Mine Ventilation Shaft
Citizens concerned about site near Tygart Lake State Park
Fairmont Times West Virginian
7 May 2014
By Jessica Borders
FAIRMONT — The West Virginia Department of Environmental
Protection is focused on gathering additional information and
determining the potential impacts of a mine ventilation shaft
proposed for Grafton.
ICG Tygart Valley LLC, which is a subsidiary of Arch Coal Inc.,
wants to construct an air shaft or ventilation shaft for the Leer
Mining Complex at a site near Tygart Lake State Park. On Tuesday,
DEP announced that it is requiring the mine company to study some
issues that have been brought up related to the permit revision.
“We’re requiring further review,” said Kelley Gillenwater,
communications director for DEP. “We want studies on the noise and
its potential impacts, and while we don’t foresee any issues
related to the methane, we do want a more detailed review of that.
We want to make sure that that is studied further and that any
potential impacts are identified.”
DEP has also requested that the Leer Mine identify a second
potential location for the construction of this air shaft.
In addition, DEP has asked the mine to refile the permit
modification application as a Significant Incidental Boundary
Revision (IBR) instead of an Insignificant IBR, which is how it
was originally filed. The difference between these two
designations is that the Significant IBR requires a 30-day public
comment period and four advertisements, but the Insignificant IBR
doesn’t require any advertising or public comment period at all,
On April 29, DEP held a public hearing in Grafton at the Paradise
Cove Community Center, which was packed for the event. Gillenwater
said quite a few speakers from the community and different
agencies addressed the crowd. DEP is taking into consideration all
the public comments that were received at the meeting and in
Kim Link, spokeswoman for Arch Coal, provided the following
statement about the permit hearing:
“Mine management at the Leer Complex made a commitment to the
residents near Tygart Lake to investigate and consider the
possibilities of locating the ventilation shaft at another site.
We’re currently looking into this possibility.
“We pride ourselves on being good neighbors and look forwarding to
being a proud part of the Grafton community for years to come.”
According to Arch Coal, the proposed area for the location of the
shaft will provide the best ventilation for the health and safety
of the workers based on the Leer Mine’s geology and design. The
site is about 4,000 feet away from Tygart Lake and the lodge.
Right now, the location that has been proposed has a gas well on
it. Before building the ventilation shaft, the company will remove
and plug the gas well. Once the construction gets under way, the
company intends to utilize techniques to keep the surface
disturbance and activity to a minimum, Arch Coal said.
Harold Ward, acting mining director for the DEP’s Division of
Mining and Reclamation, explained that an exhaust fan would remove
air from the mine and in turn keep fresh air in the face of the
mine. Only a very low level of methane would go into the air from
the shaft, but DEP wants to look into the technical aspects and
ask more questions as part of an overall technique review.
“Federal law requires that the air exiting the shaft be maintained
at a level below 2 percent methane,” Arch Coal stated. “All the
longwall mines in this MSHA (Mine Safety and Health
Administration) district are ventilated using this same system. As
soon as the mine air mixes with the outside air, the methane will
immediately be dispersed. Because methane is lighter than air, it
will rise. Methane is non-toxic and concentrations at the mine
shaft will be monitored regularly and maintained at a level
beneath the required level.”
Ward commented that the public concern about the noise from the
shaft’s large fan must be taken into consideration because of the
campground, called Lakeside Resort Campground, near the proposed
property. While DEP regulations do not include significant noise
levels, the agency wants to have the full information in order to
determine what impacts the project could have.
He said these fans can be very noisy if they’re completely
unrestricted, but there have been some recent technological
developments that can cut down the noise quite a bit. The possible
impact of the noise on the wildlife will also be reviewed.
“We plan to use barriers, sound-dampening devices and trees to
minimize the sound of the fan,” Arch Coal said.
Susan and P.J. Alasky, who have lived in Farmington for about 40
years, have always had a passion for Tygart Lake State Park. They
have enjoyed boating in Grafton for about 34 years, and for the
last five years, they have had a summer home near the park.
The family’s summer camp is very close to the proposed site for
the Leer Mine air shaft.
Susan is uneasy about the sound that would come from the large fan
that would be part of the ventilation shaft. She said this noise
would be continuous and would likely amplify throughout Tygart
Lake State Park, disturbing the families at the nearby campground
and homes. She is also worried about the possibility of chemicals
going into the lake and any tributaries, and the methane gas from
the shaft that would be emitted into the air.
“We’re concerned about the wildlife being interrupted and going
away,” Susan said.
She stressed that she and other community members are in no way
against the coal mine or the coal miners, or putting in the
proposed ventilation shaft. They just want this shaft to be
located at a different site that is farther away from the park.
“Once it happens in our state, it could happen to all the state
parks,” she said. “If we don’t get any action, we’re going to go
to Charleston. We need to let the governor know and the EPA (U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency) ... know how concerned we are.”
The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, which includes
the state’s parks, like Tygart Lake, has been involved with DEP on
the Leer Mine project since it was proposed.
“DNR does have some concerns about this project, and we’re meeting
with DEP officials and public comments are being taken and our
comments our being added to those,” said Hoy Murphy, public
information officer for DNR. “We’re hopeful that DEP will be able
to respond to those concerns and try to come up with a solution
that everybody can live with.”
He emphasized that DNR and the state parks are not against coal
mining, which is an important industry to Taylor County. These
types of concerns come up any time a new mine project is proposed,
For about seven years, Debbie Shaffer has owned the Lakeside
Resort Campground in Grafton, but she and her husband Duane
actually started running the place a couple of years prior for the
previous owners. They have done a lot of work to the turn the
campground into a popular family destination.
Debbie said close to 100 families come from West Virginia,
Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and other places to stay at the site
all summer. This year, before she and Duane knew about the
proposed ventilation shaft, they put in their own house at the
entrance of the campground.
Debbie guessed that her campground is about 440 feet from the
proposed mine shaft, and her home is only 75 feet away from that
site. Some families who come every summer have said that they may
have to start camping in Ohio if the project comes to life.
“I just don’t want to see it ruin our business here,” she said.
“We love the lake."
Families want the peace and tranquility that they know and love at
Tygart Lake State Park to remain intact, Debbie said.
Also, visitors spend their money at the businesses in town — from
gas stations and grocery stores to restaurants and other shops.
Not only will the campground suffer if the proposed air shaft
becomes a reality, but all of Taylor County will also feel the
negative effects if campers chose to go somewhere else, she said.
Beth and Larry Baldwin and their daughter Sarah, who is getting
ready to graduate from Grafton High School, reside almost exactly
one mile from Tygart Lake State Park. This has been their home for
about nine years.
“We are very concerned about the community,” Beth said of the
proposal for the Leer Mine air shaft.
She has been a part of the Taylor Environmental Advocacy
Membership, or TEAM, a small group of people representing the
community on this issue. The members have been meeting to discuss
what is happening, and have also worked with different experts in
providing information and testing water on local people’s land.
“The community water source is a huge concern for us, especially
after what happened in Charleston,” Beth said, refering to the
chemical spill into the Elk River at the beginning of the year
that affected the water supply in nine West Virginia counties.
“Why even take that chance? Why even put people through that
stress? Just the perception that there is a risk is going to be an
TEAM wants to protect the community and preserve the state park.
“We plan to work and appeal and do whatever we need to do to make
sure this does as little damage as possible,” she said. “The
community support has been has very reassuring.”
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