Charles and Oretha Oldham live on land that can longer be described as prime real estate.
They say they have a new neighbor with bad manners. It is Peabody Energy's Cottage Grove strip mine.
The Oldham's walls contain cracks they say are from mine blasting. The dust from that blasting once entered their home in a cloud so thick that Oretha could not see Charles across the living room.
They have installed a new heating system because the old one was, well, old.
The filters on that system need frequent changing because they are blackened by the dust in one month's time.
Oretha has been traveling to her doctor in Mt.Vernon lately, trying to figure out why she is now suffering from a nagging cough. She hadn't connected the cough to the dust until recently. She now wears a face mask around the neatly kept home at 502 W. Davenport St., Equality.
Allan Porter, a friend and neighbor, said, "There is silica in that dust that is ground as fine as baby powder. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources would not say whether that dust is toxic or not."
"The dust has been so thick after blasting that you couldn't see the road from the house," said Charles. "A Peabody man told me on the phone that it is not going to last very long (the mining and blasting). Another one, an inspector, said he would come over after his hunting trip in two weeks."
Charles and Oretha have kept the filters that they have had to change out of their heating system. The filters are dated, with the day they were put in written on the sides. The worst was from January of 2013.
"It's not so bad now. The ceiling fans still shake when they blast but it is done farther away," said Charles.
"The workers at the mine who live around here feel the same way we do about it. But they feel they can't say anything for fear of losing their jobs. One worker who just built a new home had his front porch cracked. He is afraid to speak out for fear of being fired."
Porter intends to do what he can about the trouble.
"Fighting Peabody may be a losing battle, but when it is all over I will be able to say I gave it my all," Porter said.
Porter is running for a seat on the Saline County Board.
Oretha said,"There is a seismic device just across the road. When I asked them about it they said the readings are all within the guidelines. I ask, 'whose guidelines?'"
Page 2 of 2 - Charles, a former coal miner, compares the effort with a similar one earlier in his life.
Charles said,"I fought Peabody when I was in the United Mine Workers of America. They can be beat. We beat them."
Charles Pearce, 84, lives at 560 Carnahan Road. He is near where Cottage Grove Mine will expand its strip mining, south of state Route 13.
"I wished it wasn't even around," he said of the strip mine.
"My father bought this land right after World War II. Peabody never did make me an offer. But they will probably blow me right off this hill.
"What really tears me up is they said they were going to close the road."
Peabody is applying for a permit to close Rocky Branch Road and turn it into a haul road for the mine.
"I really don't know what I will do," said Pearce.
"I don't see how they can come around telling old people to move," said Charles' wife Marge, 83.