Air Quality, Noise Pollution Among Public's Concerns Regarding Mine Ventilation Shaft Near Tygart Lake State Park

30 April 2014
By Lauren Talotta, General Assignment Reporter

Tygart Lake State Park is not only a popular tourist attraction, but a place to escape for area residents as well. But locals say a proposed mine shaft is threatening the spot and want the Department of Environmental Protection to stop those plans from moving forward.

It was standing room only at the Paradise Cove Community Center in Knottsville on Tuesday night, as one by one, residents, business owners, and visitors let their voices be heard about the fate of Tygart Lake State Park.

Their message to the Department of Environmental Protection? Say no to an incidental boundary revision that would allow the construction of a ventilation shaft at Arch Coal's Leer Mine.

"When you look at your land, and you look at your farm that you've put all of your life and your money and your efforts into building a beautiful place, you realize they can come in and destroy that," said Beth Baldwin, who lives about a mile from the state park.

"We don't want to listen to a loud fan all the time," said business owner Deborah Shaffer.

Shaffer and her husband own the Lakeside Resort Campground, which is located right by the proposed site. One of her main concerns is the noise that will come from the site at a place that prides itself for its tranquility.

"We've had some people already tell us they might pull out and go somewhere else," said Shaffer.

And noise isn't the only kind of pollution people are worries about.

"We are very concerned about the drinking water quality and any kind of toxins," said Baldwin.

Baldwin said officials have revised their plan at least nine times, leaving residents with more questions than answers, with every change. Residents and park officials said they support coal and are not opposed to the project. They just wish it would be located elsewhere. 

"It was gonna be about a half mile further from the lake, and that's where it needs to be," said Baldwin.

"We are working with the company to try to mitigate this as much as possible," said Mike Carico of the DEP.

Officials from the Leer Mine issued a brief statement, saying they haven't made a final decision on anything yet.

"It's no doubt that you're passionate about the area you live in. We've heard your concerns tonight, and I promise you, we'll go back, and we'll consider those," said Gaither Frazer, general manager of Leer Coal.

Prior to the public commentary, the DEP did say the fan would run 24/7 for at least 10 years, and that the air would have 1 percent methane.