Federal officials have found that a mudslide that threatened several homes in Wheelwright is caused by decades-old mining activity.
The finding qualifies the area for assistance from the federal Abandoned Mine Lands program in mitigating the slide and protecting homes.
Officials had been to the site several times during the past week to take water samples to determine whether water collecting in an abandoned mine seeped out to cause the slide, said Steve Rathbun of the Office of Surface Mining in Ashland. But in the end, "Water samples weren't really a determining factor," he said.
The hillside is made of spoil or fill material from 1950s mining activity, he said. So the question of whether the water that caused the slide comes from mine seepage or rain runoff is moot, he said.
After the office's recommendations are sent to a regional office in Pittsburgh, the project will be designed, and contractors will be sought, Rathbun said.
State House Speaker Greg Stumbo, a Democrat who represents Floyd County, said Wednesday that money from the abandoned mines program will kick in, "but unfortunately it is a very slow process," Stumbo said.
"I would hope that both state and federal regulators would see this as a crisis and move this forward as quickly as possible."
Brenda Mullins, whose rental home sits at the top of the slide, said Wednesday that city officials told her a fix could take up to six months and that there's no aid available for those who had to relocate.
City officials couldn't be reached for comment late Wednesday, but earlier in the week a Wheelwright church had opened its doors to help, and Mayor David Sammons said Red Cross assistance was available.