DEP’s Mining and Reclamation Advisory Board will tour an innovative mine water treatment facility at the Flight 93 Memorial in Somerset County on July 20 as part of a tour of mine drainage treatment facilities that have benefited from funds provided by state Surface Mining Conservation and Reclamation Act.
As the Flight 93 Memorial began to take shape, planners faced a problem: seeps of polluted mine water from the abandoned coal mines that were below the site.
Simply pumping the water into a nearby creek would have been unlawful because the water contained a high amount of iron and manganese, so a treatment plan had to be devised.
Historically, engineers have used chemicals and settlement tanks or ponds to treat mine water. The water would be pumped out of the mine, neutralized by limestone or another chemical to neutralize the pH and cause most of the iron to settle out. The water then would commonly be pumped into a nearby waterway.
At the Flight 93 site, additional treatment was essential to remove the manganese and remaining smaller amount of iron.
The extra treatment was needed to protect Stoneycreek, the state’s River of the Year in 2012 and home to a robust trout fishery. The treated water is pumped into Lamberts Run which flow directly into the Stoneycreek trout fishery.
The impact of iron in the water was particularly pronounced during the cold-weather months, because settling was less effective. With technical assistance from the U. S. Office of Surface Mining, the cold-weather treatment problem was diagnosed, and an “engineered wetland’ was designed by Eric Robertson of the PA Association of Conservation Districts.
“This is a creative solution to a problem that is all too common in Pennsylvania,” said Acting DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “Thanks to the hard work and dedication of DEP staff and our partners, this nationally significant memorial is no longer threatened by mine drainage and a watershed is improved.”
Money to construct the new wetlands was provided in a $312,905 grant from OSM.
The system uses two groundwater pumps to maintain the water level in the abandoned mine. The water is sent to settling ponds where most of the iron is removed.
The water is then sent to the specially designed wetland which removes enough iron for the water to meet stringent regulatory requirements even during the winter. It then passes through a specially designed manganese removal bed which eliminates 95 per cent of the manganese from the water.
The on-going maintenance at the treatment ponds will be funded by a Treatment Trust that will continue to provide the needed money going forward.
The results are cleaner water flowing into Stoneycreek from Lamberts Run and no mine drainage seeps on the grounds of the Flight 93 Memorial Park.
DEP’s partners in this project and several others designed to improve the quality of the Stoneycreek River Watershed include the Somerset County Conservation District, Somerset County Conservancy, the PA Association of Conservation Districts, The National Park Service, the National Park Foundation, Families of Flight 93, U.S. Office of Surface Mining, AMD Industries, Inc., Saint Francis University and the Stoneycreek River Improvement Project.
MRAB is made up of legislators, citizens and industry representatives, to provide input to DEP on issues regarding surface coal mining and reclamation as well as the allocation of funds for mine reclamation projects throughout the Commonwealth.
The Board meets the following day-- July 21-- at DEP’s Cambria District Mining Office, 286 Industrial park Road, Ebensburg starting at 9:00.For more information on the Board, visit DEP’s Mining and Reclamation Advisory Board webpage or Daniel Snowden, DEP Bureau of Mining Programs, 717-787-5103, firstname.lastname@example.org.