By Carrie Searcy
Office of Communications
For the second successive year, the Division of Abandoned Mine Lands (DAML) , has received the national reclamation award, Appalachian Region, from the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) for its work on the Joan Bernat Slide high priority, AML reclamation project.
“This started on May 30, 2016, when Joan Bernat contacted us,” said James Cable, an Environmental Scientist with DAML. “We immediately sent out an inspector to assess the situation.”
Drainage from old underground mine was creating a slide from the top of a mountain in Hardburly, Kentucky, and was placing numerous homes in danger. Residents had already begun an effort to contain the slide by using a small tractor and hand tools, but there was still what Cable called ‘tons of potential for further damage.’
“The slide itself was a wall 300 feet wide of mud, trees and old mining debris,” said Cable. Keith Miller Construction of Hazard, Kentucky was called in and work began on July 5, 2016. The project, which would span 16 months to complete, was done in two phases. The first phase stopped the slide and redirected water and silt away from the homes. Three families had evacuated the site and the underpinning and yards of two mobile homes were damaged. Phase II, which was performed by Jackson & Jackson Reclamation of Winchester, re-routed drainage above the slide to control silt and prevent further water from reaching homes. Improvements were made to pre-existing drainage to prevent the one access road from becoming inaccessible.
“All in all, we ended up removing 113,000 cubic yards of debris,” Cable said.
The slide also spurred some projects that weren’t normally performed by DAML or their team. The first was during Phase I, when the slide was diverted from the homes and roadway so the debris could dry out and stabilize. It also bought DAML time to work out a much larger design for Phase II.
The reclamation team faced another huge issue. The team needed to install a 4’ x 4’ Box Culvert under KY 1146 – the only access road in and out of Hardburly, KY – but there was no way to divert or detour traffic. If the team poured the culvert on site, the road would be closed for several days.
“The contractor and AML personnel devised a plan to pre-cast sections of the concrete box culvert at the contractor’s shop, then transport them to the site,” said Cable. “When the culvert sections were complete, they dug out half of the road and installed half of the culvert, allowing the other half of the road to be open. Then, they backfilled that section with gravel, making a temporary detour for local traffic and dug out the other half of the road and installed the rest of the culvert. This resulted in no loss of access for residents and emergency services in Hardburly.”
The project cost just over $657,000 and was one of the 51 reclamation projects to date in 2018 taken on by DAML.
The Division of Abandoned Mine Lands, which is 100 percent federally funded through a fee collected on every ton of coal collected nationwide, works throughout the state’s coal fields to protect the public from health and safety problems caused by mining that occurred prior to 1982. This includes the reclamation of landslides, water-filled pits, open mine portals and dilapidated equipment and buildings. A bond forfeiture reclamation program is also administered by AML in which a reclamation bond is posted before the mining company begins work at a site. If the company fails to mine and reclaim a site to the specified standards of its mining permit, the company’s bond may be forfeited to the Commonwealth. The forfeited funds then are used by the state to reclaim the bonded site. A water supply replacement program is another program administered by AML in which the division extends waterlines into areas where drinking water has been contaminated by prior mining.
Currently, DAML has a central office in Frankfort and field offices in Prestonsburg, London, Madisonville and Hazard.
Recognizing state and tribal reclamation projects that reclaim mined sites that were abandoned prior to the signing of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977, the AML Reclamation Award projects are only considered if they are funded wholly or in part by OSMRE’s AML Reclamation Fund. The awards are split into five regional categories; National Award, Appalachian Region Award, Mid-Continent Award, Western Region Award and the Small Project Award.
“This particular slide stands out because it was impactful to an entire community with lots of people involved, in a town that is historically documented as a former coal mining site,” said Justin Adams, an Environmental Scientist Consultant with DAML. “It was a dire situation that required some out of the box thinking by our team and they did a really great job.”
The team was presented the national award for its work on the Joan Bernat Slide on September 11 at the 41st National Association of AML conference in Pittsburgh, PA. Last year, DAML also won the Appalachian Region Award for its work on the Bell Central School HP AML Reclamation Project.
“I have great appreciation for the AML employees and the Contractors that were involved in this project and were critical in making it an award winning project,” said Bob Scott, the Division Director of DAML. “While not all of our AML staff were involved in this particular project, there are 50 other projects similar to it that AML successfully completed in the past year, and our entire Division is to be commended for their tireless efforts in eliminating the hazards associated with historic mine scarred lands.”