By Carl Hays
Even in the middle of a pandemic, the work of the Division of Abandoned Mine Lands (DAML) didn’t miss a beat throughout the coal regions of Kentucky.
“Unlike the abandoned mine lands we work to reclaim and repair, we can’t abandon our ongoing mission,” said DAML Director Bob Scott. “Although we’ve had to alter the way we do business this year, we’ve been fully engaged in addressing eligible mining-related problems, and we’ve successfully completed 50 reclamation projects in Southeastern Kentucky alone.”
One of those projects involved a massive landslide — more than 27,000 cubic yards of highly saturated soil and rocky debris — that in January 2019 advanced down a mountaintop toward the homes of brothers Wycliff and Greg Morgan and their families near the Hoskinston community in Leslie County.
“I looked out from my brother’s property that day and noticed a stream of slushy mud pouring off the mountain,” said Wycliff Morgan. “We knew something wasn’t right.”
The brothers tried to limit the damage by cutting down trees. But they realized the landslide was beyond their ability to control and contacted the DAML
DAML personnel from the London regional office did a field investigation that day and later confirmed that the landslide was linked to mining disturbances within the Hindman 9 and 10 coal seams, dating back prior to 1982, making the project eligible to receive federal AML funding for reclamation. Design engineers began developing a reclamation plan. In the meantime, the team erected a temporary barrier and monitored the slide.
The slide continued to move, albeit slowly, through the spring and summer due to excessively wet weather. Timber and debris helped slow the movement. In the fall of 2019, a contract was signed with Triple H Excavating of Manchester, and work began Oct. 1.
The persistent rains had so saturated the slide material that it made it difficult to maintain passible haul roads to the designated waste disposal areas. The contractor’s dump trucks had to be replaced with articulating, all-wheel drive trucks. Inclement weather forced delays, but after 12 months — and an estimated 2,700 truck-loads — the project neared completion.
Retaining walls were installed near the two properties, a 40-cubic-yard gabion silt check was built at the base of the slide to slow run-off, and a 1200-square-yard concrete flex mat was installed to enhance permanent drainage control.
The slide corridor was hydro-seeded and other areas were dry-seeded and mulched, which promoted an excellent vegetation cover. To finish the $425,000 project, the contractor applied road stone, installed a new access road gate, and repaired of a portion of the county road that had been impacted.
“We are tickled to death with the work that was done,” said Wycliff Morgan. “The inspectors, contractors…everyone was respectful and polite, they did the work by the book and worked together like a well-oiled machine. It’s just a near-perfect job and they’ve even come back to check on things.”
Carl Hays is an environmental scientist with the Division of Abandoned Mine Lands.