A deadly dam exists at Millstone, threatening the lives of a hundred people or more. Most of these silt dams have recently been removed and filled. However, the two largest at the Letcher County Transfer Station have not, and I am told they will stay.
During last Friday’s flooding, I went to look at that dam, and it was scary to say the least. I live a mile below it, and the one time in 37 years my creek has overflowed its banks was when the tiny dam below it broke.
This is not a pond, but a lake about the same volume as Jenkins Lake. Judging from the height of the dam and water level, it appears to be 30 to 35 feet deep, and a quarter of a mile long. Adding to the danger is another pond just above it about half the size, but much shallower and better constructed.
The dam was poorly and hastily built about 30 years ago. Its height has been added to over the years by various mining companies. A drainpipe once went through the dam, and beavers plugged it, causing water to flow over the top and eroding a large gap in the left side.
The county employees used to keep the pipe open until the mining companies saw fit to remove the pipe and just let the water run over the top, raising the water level substantially and adding to the lethality.
It is plainly visible that hundreds of cubic yards of the dam have been eroded away. All mining in the area has ceased and the lake serves no purpose and should be removed, or at least, reinstall a drain and lower the water to a safe level, about two or three feet.
As the people on the right fork of Millstone can attest, a similar dam, much smaller, broke and actually peeled the asphalt off of the highway a mile downstream. Fortunately, the hollow was about a mile long and no one lived in it at the time. The nearest home was about another mile down the main hollow and a lot higher above the creek.
The people at Shea Fork of McRoberts remember when a small silt dam failed, damaging many of their homes. They were met by gun thugs when they went to investigate the pond failure.
I think Magistrate Wayne Fleming finally gained access to the property. None of the people were adequately compensated for their damage.
This dam has the potential of the Buffalo Creek, W.Va., disaster, which drowned nearly 200 people, if I remember correctly. I know the removal of this lake would be expensive, but a simple fix would be to drain and reinstall a culvert at the bottom of the dam large enough to handle the flow. It could easily be done in the summer when there is hardly any water entering the lake. The water level should never be kept over one or two feet.
As I remember, the land was deeded to the county by Beth- Elkhorn Coal Corp. If the property belongs to the county, it will be much easier to fix the problem. I will be checking deeds and records this week.
I encourage everyone living in the danger zone to go and look at the dam, and complain to proper officials before disaster strikes.