THE DAM BROKE SHORTLY after 8:00 on a Saturday morning. On February 26, 1972, a wall of mining waste and water estimated at 30- to 50-feet-high roared down Logan County's Buffalo Hollow and through the West Virginia villages of Lorado, Riley, Braeholm, Accoville, Pardee, and Man.

Down the 17-mile valley poured 130 million gallons of water, sludge, cars, houses, trees, bodies, and more. When it was over, 80 percent of the 2,200 homes in the valley were gone or uninhabitable, thousands of people were homeless, many lost all their possessions, 16 communities were destroyed, and 125 people were killed.

Pittston Coal Company bought the dam in 1970 and continued the common practice of piling mine refuse, mostly coarse coal fragments and shale, across valleys to get ...

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