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Letcher County families win in dispute with coal company

A Letcher County jury awarded more than $650,000 in damages Wednesday to five families whose water was contaminated by an underground coal mine in the late 1990s.

The families, who live in Camp Branch in Letcher County, filed the lawsuit after a two-year state investigation concluded that the mine, operated by Golden Oak Mining Company, did not cause the contamination. Golden Oak closed the mine in 1997 and filed for protection under 1bankruptcy laws.

A jury in Letcher Circuit Court determined that the company did cause the contamination and awarded the damages. The jury awarded compensation for diminished property values and because the company didn't provide replacement water for the families.

The money will be divided among the five families. They are Vina Lucas, Dan and Betty Lucas, Mack and Owana Fultz, Tabitha Fultz and Daniel and Sherri Cook.

In all, the water supplies of 100 families were affected by the mine. Other lawsuits have been settled privately or are pending.