Bent Mountain dig raises new concerns from pipeline opponents

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ROANOKE CO., Va. (WDBJ7) A crew working for the Mountain Valley Pipeline is now conducting an archaeological dig on Bent Mountain.

The work has raised fresh concerns from landowners in the area who object to the operation and want to know more about what's happening there.

Hiking in from outside the pipeline corridor, we were able to get a good look through the trees.

We saw a large white tent where some members of the crew were working. Others were on higher ground nearby.

It all came as a surprise to pipeline opponents who live in the area.

"We knew they were going to be doing center-line marking," said Bent Mountain resident Robin Auston, "but when they started off loading pallets, ladders, large boxes, a lot of equipment, we had no idea what was happening."

After calling Roanoke County Police last Thursday, they learned it was an archaeological dig, likely to continue for 60 days.

"I guess one of the things that's most concerning to the people who are not directly impacted is having people that no one knows on our mountain all hours of the day and night coming and going," Austin said, "and you just don't know anything about why they're here."

Landowners say previous work in the same area has revealed evidence of Native American settlement that could date back as far as 9000 years.

"And we feel now extremely protective of a site we know artifacts have been found in," said Bent Mountain landowner Kathy Chandler. "The landowner has had requests in repeatedly to have the artifacts either identified to them, or now even left in place. And this feels very secretive."

Monday afternoon, a spokesperson for the Mountain Valley Pipeline said the project team has a court order granting access to the property.

Because the landowner declined to allow the crew to remove artifacts from the property for analysis, MVP said the team is doing the work on site.

The company said crew members are staying at night for security reasons to protect the artifacts and monitor the site.