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Considering land that has been mined for purchase  RSS feed

 
Jennifer Whitaker
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Hi gang!

I'm looking at some land in Kentucky that I have dreams of gathering an eco village. However I know that the land was timbered and surface coal was removed from it. What sorts of things should I be scared of with land that has been scarred like this? I know that over time I can bring the land back with biodynamic and permaculture techniques but would this land now be considered toxic? I don't know enough about removing coal and what it does to the land except that it looks awful. Any suggestions??
 
Dale Hodgins
gardener
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Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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Get an environmental survey. Try to get the current owner to bear the cost. Even if a large portion of the property is contaminated there may be areas that are not. If you get a few acres of good arable land then the rest can be forested or used for other non-edible crops ( fiber, bio-diesel , luffa...) An uncontaminated water supply is a must have item.

Sometimes an entire mountain top is removed. It would be best to get a place where the top of the watershed is untouched.

I bought a clear cut forest 10 years ago. It looked awful. But 30% of the land still had some good trees. Now the young trees are 45 ft. tall. There is little evidence of the destruction a decade ago.
 
Jennifer Whitaker
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Thanks! Great ideas!
 
Olanga Jay
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The man in our village, bought the town dump for pennies. It was a contaminated area. But he leveled the garbage and bought and brought the good earth and covered with a thick layer. I talked to him - he was a professional.
He said the main thing is to find a source of clean water for the well. So this may not be in the middle of contaminated sites. However, often, underground rivers run side by side. They flow with great speed from other places and they may be pure water. This is the most important factor, he said.
The first years he grow on raised beds, and the rest of the land he made ​​the pasture.
 
Jennifer Whitaker
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I know that a river flows near by but have no idea if it's a clean one or not. I guess I would need the groundwater tested as well.... I wonder though, if I wasn't living on it for awhile if that would give the ground water time to clean up? Or I guess that could be years and years if it is contaminated.


Hmm great info! Thank you!
 
Jennifer Whitaker
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Just googled water contamination coal mining and found this great resource...

http://www.scribd.com/doc/10034191/Coal-Mining-Pollution-and-Its-Control-Measures

It mentions pumping the water in to a lagoon and allowing sedimentation to occur. On 59 acres, I can do that!
 
Olanga Jay
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Yes, the first thing you should test the water. Plan the number of possible places to build a house. At these places test water. Walk with rod and you can find the underground rivers. The rod will show you the direction of the river and where it flows... how deep ... So choose the cleanest place to build a house. For example, I found a place on my land, with an underground river, just 5 feet below ground... but tracing where the water flows, I found a source where the underground river comes to the surface and we test the water from the creek. About the land do not worry. For example grapevines love to grow on the land of coal ... their grapes are sweeter. Most important is clean water.
 
Olanga Jay
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Water can come from non-contaminated sites. Even if your land has to be cleaned for a long time, then you can always make the raised beds. I bought the stony ground, with virtually no land to farm ... But I have animals, which means mountains of manure ... and it makes good soil to farm. So gradually I built a flourishing land.
 
Jennifer Whitaker
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That sounds awesome Olanga
 
R. Peacock
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Location: eastern part of West Tennessee
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Make sure you get the mineral rights to the property. A low grade seam of coal under your property may not be profitable to strip mine now, but in a few years that may change.

In Kentucky and Tennessee there have been many reclaimed strip mines, some by state agencies, some by private companies such as the mines and timber growers, and some by both. Contact the state forestry service, wildlife resouce agency, and department of mines. Here is the state site for KY. http://kentucky.gov/Pages/home.aspx
 
Jennifer Whitaker
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Will do! Thanks for the tip. Are you anywhere close to Interstate 75? Would be great to have a permiculture friend once I move down there. Is the area good for farmer markets and such?
 
richard valley
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Location: Sierra Nevada mountain valley CA, & Nevada high desert
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Removing the coal, I don't think, shouldn't hurt the land, and if they pushed the top soil into a mound it can be pulled back over the strip. The water table should not have been put in any danger by striping. If the water was good before they took the coal off the upper layer it still is. An earler post mentioned raised beds, that's a good idea in any case.

 
Jennifer Whitaker
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That was my initial thought too but thought I better take this question to the forums! Thanks!
 
rg ely
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Jennifer: I don't think you said what part of I-75 you are considering. I wanted to make sure you know about the town of Berea, a hotbed of permaculture activity (at least a hotbed for Kentucky ). There is an ecovillage, part of the college. You can also check out Sustainable Berea to find kindred spirits. I think there are 3 Farmers Markets in season. I have a friend that is successfully living off-grid about 10 miles south of town.

The writer that warned you to check on mineral rights is 110% correct. Much of the land in Eastern Kentucky had the rights sold off decades ago, often for a pittance, and before strip mining was a common practice. The courts have ruled that the land can be stripped nonetheless. Mining and land reclamation regulations are weak. The good news is that if your land has already been mined, you may be better off than a similar parcel that hasn't, if the rights have been sold. This woman has found a novel use for strip mined land.

I applaud your taking this project on. There's karma involved in the process of land healing, and permaculture has the toolbox to do it.
 
Jennifer Whitaker
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Oh this is AWESOME! Thank you so much for these links!!!

When I was thinking EcoVillage I was thinking more along like what they are doing in Wales:

http://www.shelterpop.com/2010/02/04/a-real-life-hobbit-house/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6vRfIK_Sv4 <--- This looks like when they first got started but I have seen all sorts of other ones that have amazing progress.

So more eco friendly buildings (roundhouses, strawbale, cob?) with sustainable features (water recycling, compost toilets, wind/solar/hydro power) and people who want to grow their own food and live off the land. Not sure how to structure it but I'm just in the beginning phases and the people I need always seem to show up.

Thanks again!

Oh and PS I am close to Berea!!! Very exciting!
 
Mike Dayton
Posts: 149
Location: sw pa zone 5
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It sounds like you are well on your way. I am from Pa and my Dad stripped a field years ago. Several things I would suggest. Check with the locals about getting building permits and sewage permits on stripped ground. They may have a moritorium for a certain number of years on building on the ground because of setlement, Pa has some restrictions. Check with the DEP or what ever state agency regulates strip mining in Ky. They will have all of the records about that mine and what water problems if any they had there. They will also have records about any acid bearing rock and what was done with it. You can also get the sulfur content of the coal and the iron content and ash content because they most likely did not take it all. Here they must leave 300' to the out crop so that water will not flow out as easily. Most strip jobs I have seem will have a wet spot created some where on the stripped property. The water collects in a new spot that was not wet befor. Think of it this way, you peal back your skin, cut out a large area of your arm, grind it into hamburger and replace it. Then put the skin back in place. Your blood may flow through there, but its flow will be changed. The water flow will be changed also. The water is the water, we can't create it, we can't distroy it, we can't even hold it back from flowing to the sea for very long. We can direct it, dam it up, use it, but the water will do what the water wants to do. I agree that you should drill a well as a condition of purchase, with out water the land is no good to you. I would check for a wet spot on the ground. Water flow is often redirected by strip mining and a new wet area will be created. You may try and see if you could wing the spring so to speak. Dig on either side of the wet spot up the hill a distance and try to direct the water to that area. You may be able to create a spring that could water live stock. Planting hemlock trees up the hill might help retain the water on the land. There are may things that you can do over time to improve a mined property, it just takes time. I agree that water is the key, with out good water life can not exist. You can improve the soil, but you can't create water.
 
Jennifer Whitaker
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I know that the general area has good water table but I guess I need to really to talk to some locals... Thanks for the advice on what to ask about when I get in touch with the different agencies.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/email
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