Local News

Letcher County Coal Miner Killed, Orchestra Talks Resume, UofL Football Team on Winning Streak: Afternoon Review

Here are some of the stories we’ve covered this afternoon, in case you missed them.

A coal miner has been killed in an equipment accident in Letcher County. The accident was at the Hubble Mining Company’s Number 9 mine at Eolia in Letcher County.

A week after the Louisville Orchestra management threatened to replace musicians who had not agreed to a final contract offer, talks have resumed.

After struggling to a 2-4 start, the University of Louisville football team has won three straight games and will become bowl eligible next weekend with a win against Pittsburgh.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer is permanently reopening the front doors of Metro Hall, which have been closed since merger in 2003.

And Louisville Collegiate School officials say one staff member remains hospitalized in stable condition from last week’s bus accident; all students have been discharged.

Environment Local News

MSHA Places Kentucky Coal Mine on ‘Potential Pattern of Violations’ Status

A Kentucky coal mine has been flagged as unsafe by the Mine Safety and Health Administration. The Letcher County mine is the fourth recently placed on a ‘potential pattern of violations’ status.

The mine is Dennis Creg Yonts’ Number Two Mine in Dean, operated by Vision Coal. Kevin Stricklin of MSHA says the notice amounts to a warning, of sorts.

“It’s a very stern warning,” he said. “And it gives them the opportunity—it’s kind of a last chance agreement—that they have the opportunity to do whatever it takes to get off the list and turn things around.”

If the mine doesn’t improve, it could be placed on a pattern of violations status, or POV. That tool is one that’s been historically underused by MSHA. Since the Mine Act became law in 1977, only two mines have ever been placed on the special status. A POV means that a mine will be temporarily shut down if any serious violations are found.

Since the deadly explosion last year at the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia, MSHA has also begun surprise impact inspections at mines with a history of violations. Stricklin says the agency is using both the impact inspections and the potential pattern of violations status as a tool.

“The more we do that, hopefully, the more we can convince mine operators to do it on their own rather than MSHA having to sneak into their mine and find these problems to get them corrected,” he said. “So we’re trying to do that both through talking to people as well as enforcing the law.”

MSHA placed the Letcher County mine on notice after an audit uncovered safety problems. Three other mines were also warned—all three are in West Virginia.

Environment Local News

New Research Suggests Attitudes Towards Environment in SE Kentucky are Shifting

New research on residents of two counties in southeastern Kentucky show the area’s attitude about the environment has changed since the recession. Researchers with the Carsey Institute at the University of New Hampshire surveyed residents in Harlan and Letcher counties in 2007, then returned this year to see whether and how beliefs have changed.

Jessica Ulrich is a doctoral student in sociology at the University of New Hampshire and the author of the report. She says one of the most striking differences between the two sets of data is the changing attitude toward the environment—in 2007, only 17 percent thought that laws restricting development were bad for the community. By 2011, that number had nearly doubled to 33 percent.

“What we’re seeing is that people are becoming less supportive of regulations that protect the natural environment,” she said. “I believe this is tied to the fact that people are looking for ways to create new jobs and zoning laws or regulations are seen as preventing new jobs from being created.”

There was also an increase of 15 percentage points—from 37 to 52 percent—among those who thought resources should be used to create jobs, rather than conserved for future generations.

The Carsey Institute is conducting similar research in rural communities across the country, but Harlan and Letcher counties are the only communities in Appalachia to be surveyed.

Local News

Letcher County Water Advisory Lifted

Several thousand residents of Letcher County in eastern Kentucky have been told it’s now safe to drink their tap water.

The Kentucky Department for Environmental Protection has lifted a water advisory that has been in effect since a diesel fuel leak contaminated a portion of the Kentucky River near the
Whitesburg water treatment plant last week.

State Division of Water spokesperson Allison Fleck says residents are no longer being warned not to drink their tap water or use it for bathing.

“The disposal site has been contained, it’s undergoing remediation. We’ll continue to have samples taken from the river, the water plant and the distribution system as long as that remediation is underway,” Fleck said.

A Whitesburg company, Don Childers Oil, Incorporated, has been cited for numerous violations in connection with the leak. The same company was also cited following a similar incident in November.

Local News

Letcher Co. Tap Water Contaminated 2nd Time

Letcher County residents have been warned not to use their tap water for anything but flushing toilets.  Division of Water spokeswoman Allison Fleck says officials began investigating the contaminated water supply last weekend.

“Around midnight on Sunday, the environmental response team pursued reports of a strong petroleum odor in the distribution system and traced that back to the water distribution in the plant,” says Fleck.

Fleck says officials have identified the source of the contamination, which was old, leaking petroleum storage tanks near the river that supplies the county’s drinking water.  In November of last year, a similar leak led to prosecution of the owner of some old storage tanks.  Fleck says legal action against the owner of the leaking tanks this time around is pending but not yet public.