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Excel Mining operates an underground mining complex owned by MC Mining, LLC, located near the city of Pikeville in Pike County, Kentucky. Excel is owned by Oklahoma-based Alliance Resource Partners, among the largest coal producers in the eastern United States. Alliance acquired the mine in 1989.
In May 2011, local TV station WKYT reported flaming drinking water well at the home of Calvin and Denise Howard in eastern Kentucky's Pike County, who reported that the water burned their skin when they bathed. They also said that Excel Mining, operator of a nearby coal mine, had offered to install a water filtration system only if the residents signed a liability waiver. The Howards refused, and in August 2011, filed a lawsuit (pdf) over the contamination.
According to the lawsuit, in January 2011 the Howards began hearing explosions beneath their home, and their well water turned gray and took on an offensive odor. In May 2011, the well exploded into flames, destroying the well house, and has burned continuously ever since. The Kentucky Department of Mining Reclamation has investigated the burning well and confirmed that it "is creating an environmental and public safety hazard." The company began providing bottled water to the Howards, but other impacted families said they did not get any assistance. The Howards have been advised to evacuate their trailer home but say they can't afford to do so. The lawsuit seeks compensation for their replacement housing and their water.
Residents also report mysterious health problems they feared could be connected to the poisoned water, including a teenage girl's hair falling out and a boy vomiting blood, and are hoping to connect their water pipes to a clean municipal water source - but price is a concern. Pike County officials have said it could cost as much as $150,000 to connect them to their existing water lines, and would take at least three months.
Excel Mining parent company Alliance was involved in a 2009 controversy over the firing of the director of Kentucky's Division of Mine Permits. Ron Mills' termination came after he refused to issue about a half-dozen mine permits -- most requested by Alliance -- because they failed to comply with federal and state laws. Mills' denials were ultimately overruled by higher state officials.
Articles and resources
Related SourceWatch articles
- "Mines and facilities: Central Appalachia" Alliance Resource Partners Website, accessed August 2011.
- Sue Sturgis, "Flaming drinking-water well in Kentucky illuminates Big Coal's abuses" Institute for Southern Studies, August 19, 2011.