LOST CREEK, Ky. (LEX 18) — 59 people in the Lost Creek community are going up against Blackhawk Mining and its subsidiary, Pine Branch Mining.
Floyd County attorney Ned Pillersdorf has filed suit on their behalf, claiming the companies' negligence made the flooding that hit the Breathitt County community in July worse.
"It was a ticking time bomb," Pillersdorf said. "And that ticking time bomb went off last July."
The complaint alleges two main points.
The first is that the companies failed to properly reclaim the land that was damaged by mining.
"The coal companies, to this day, say, 'well we've reclaimed, we've put down some grass seed'," he said. "And common sense tells you, throwing down some grass seed does not hold back the water the same way 200 years of vegetation does."
The second claim is Blackhawk and Pine Branch did not properly construct or maintain their silt ponds, and because of that they failed and dumped contaminated water and debris on the plaintiffs' properties.
"The odd way we know that is because in the silt ponds there are these carp-like fish," Pillersdorf said. "Many of the fish ended up on my clients' properties."
He's talking about clients like Gregory Hays. He said he found several of those fish under his mobile home after the flood.
Hays also said he and his family narrowly escaped the flood.
"I'm angry," Hays said. "My kids have lost their sense of security at home. They don't have a home."
He says he hasn't slept well since the floods and that he is traumatized by what his family went through.
Something his 7-year-old said that night haunts him.
"She made a little prayer and said, 'God if you need to take me and save the rest of my family, go ahead'. That's pretty tough to deal with. I tear up every time I think about it."
He said this lawsuit is bringing some hope that his family and others can start to rebuild.
"These people need money," Pillersdorf said. "They need damages."
You can read more about mining in Kentucky here.
Blackhawk Mining, LLC responded to our request for comment with the statement below:
"Blackhawk is woven into the fabric of eastern Kentucky. Our people were deeply impacted by the flooding, including loss of loved ones, homes and belongings," said Blackhawk Mining, LLC in a company statement. "We have been supporting the community with relief efforts from the beginning and our sympathies are with those affected. The flood was a natural disaster without precedent. We do not agree with claims made by the lawyer representing the plaintiffs and will respond accordingly at the appropriate time."