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 Post subject: Project to Rid Acid Mine Water in the Works
PostPosted: Mon Feb 18, 2013 9:29 am 
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Joined: Thu Apr 02, 2009 7:16 pm
Posts: 478
Location: Anthracite Region of PA
By Paul Golias (Correspondent)

Published: February 18, 2013

A major assault on an acid mine water source in Hanover Township could begin later this year.

Eliminating the heavy iron content in Nanticoke Creek has an ironic twist: Earth Conservancy must obtain a state Department of Environmental Protection permit to divert the very stream that should be clean once the project is completed.

The Earth Conservancy project is an active rather than passive attack on pollution caused by acid mine water. A recent report on pollution in the Solomon Creek watershed included suggestions for more active projects.

Michael Dziak, executive director of Earth Conservancy, said grants from Growing Greener and the Office of Surface Mining will provide $750,000 for the work.

The Askam Borehole off Dundee Road in Hanover Township spews 3,500 gallons of acid mine water per minute into Nanticoke Creek. The stream runs from Warrior Run and Hanover Township west to the Susquehanna River. Yellow boy, or iron hydroxide, is the colloquial term for the yellow-orange solid that is created when the pH of mine drainage is raised beyond 3. Motorists on the South Cross Valley Expressway can spot yellow boy in the stream as it passes through the Loomis Park and Dundee sections of Hanover Township.

Dziak said the flow can hit 7,000 gallons per minute when heavy rainfalls raise the water table. Because the borehole will remain in place, releasing pressure from water in abandoned mines, the project must be active, Dziak said.

"This acid mine drainage will require treatment forever," he said. "There will be ongoing maintenance needs."

The project calls for Mamlstrom oxidizers, units that use electric current to blow air across the polluted water. The iron precipitates out quickly and the water is moved to a holding pond and then into the stream. Dziak said 99 percent of the iron will be removed from the water.

Because Earth Conservancy must change the course of the steam, a DEP permit is needed. The project awaits that permit, he said.

Nanticoke Creek is one of several streams that "disappear" into the mines, and then emerge through boreholes to resume a flow to the river.

A passive system is in use on Espy Run, a tributary of Nanticoke Creek. The Espy wetlands include settling ponds and use of water-tolerant plants such as cattails. As the acid mine water moves through the ponds, the water takes in oxygen that causes the metals to clump and fall to the bottom of the ponds. The pond outflow into Espy Creek is cleaner water.

Acid mine drainage is a legacy of the area's coal mining past. Runoff from culm banks and silt ponds contributes to acid pollution. Dziak said EC has reclaimed about 1,500 acres of land and covered the former culm bank and pond sites with clean fill that has been seeded and planted.

Dziak said acid mine pollution is a massive problem that will take $50 million or more to solve.

"This is a long-term issue. In the short term, we are trying to fix some of the problems," he said.

The Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation recently presented a detailed report on the Solomon Creek watershed, one segment showing higher quality streams on the mountains and one of a degraded creek and tributaries in the valley.

Robert Hughes, executive director of EPCAMR, said the survey report urges restoration of the acid-mine affected sections of the watershed, protection of the higher quality segment and its trout population, and promotion of land use policies that will protect the entire watershed.

Hughes, his staff and volunteers walked 26.6 miles of streams, including the picturesque Pine Run area off the Laurel Run Road, and heavily polluted Solomon Creek from the Sans Souci Parkway to the stream's confluence with the Susquehanna River south of the Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority plant. They found the same yellow boy conditions as in the lower stretches of Nanticoke Creek.

The report makes no specific recommendation on acid mine water treatment nor does it list dollar amounts needed, but Hughes urged active rather than passive treatment. Hughes said it might take a collective approach by towns and higher levels of government to undertake such an ambitious project.

The 18-month Solomon Creek study, done at a cost of $6,000, found brook trout populations in many areas of the upper watershed. Rainbow and brown trout, once found in the region, have disappeared, Hughes said. The state Fish and Boat Commission does not stock the streams.

Dziak said the upper stretch of Nanticoke Creek also is clean, clearly highlighting the degrading nature of iron content in the runoff from mines.

Scott K
"Watch Your Top"

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