Monday, December 25, 2023

PA Abandoned Mine Reclamation Conference Recognizes Janie French, Headwaters Trust; DEP's John Stefanko With 2023 Mayfly Awards; Rahab Of SR81

PA Abandoned Mine Reclamation Conference recognized Janie French, Executive Director of the Headwaters Charitable Trust based in Clearfield County and John Stefanko, DEP Deputy Secretary for Active and Abandoned Mine Operations were recognized with the 2023 Mayfly Award.

The Award recognizes individuals who have dedicated a lifetime of knowledge and expertise to the reclamation of abandoned mines in Pennsylvania.  The mayfly was selected as the symbol for this award because its presence in a stream signifies clean water.

Janie French

French was named Executive Director of the Headwaters Charitable Trust in April 2013 has worked professionally and volunteered for various nonprofit organizations for more than 26 years. 

During this time, she has taken on many roles such as serving on board committees, leading fundraising campaigns, directing programs and working to build the organizational leadership capacity for a number of community and statewide organizations.

Most of her experience has been connecting environmental assets with economic development, where she helps people enjoy the environment and make a better living from our natural assets.

Before becoming Executive Director, French served as Director Of Green Infrastructure Programs for the PA Environmental Council; Watershed Program Manager for 3 Rivers Wet Weather and State Coordinator and Outreach Team Manager for the Canaan Valley Institute.

French has a Bachelor’s Degree in Science and Horticulture from Penn State University and an Associate Degree of Arts and Sciences from George Washington University.

John Stefanko

Stefanko was first appointed as DEP Deputy Secretary of Active and Abandoned Mine Operations in September 2011.  He has been with the Department since 1987. 

Prior to his appointment as Deputy, Stefanko was the Executive Assistant and served as the senior advisor to the previous Deputy Secretary until his retirement in December 2010. 

He has also served as the Chief of DEP's Division of Contracts, Procurement and Bonding within the Bureau of Office Services, where he managed bidding, awarding and management of the activities of all construction contracts and the procurement of goods and services for the Department. 

Prior to that, he was a Project Designer for the Department's Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation, Division of Acid Mine Drainage Abatement, where he reviewed and created engineering designs for departmental mine reclamation, water supply replacements, mine fire control, subsidence control, abandoned mine lands projects and other associated facilities.

Stefanko holds an Associate Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Pennsylvania State University, Altoona Campus and Bachelor's Degree in Civil Engineering Technology from the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown.

Click Here to watch the Mayfly Award Program [video].

The Slippery Rock Watershed Coalition provided these other highlights of the 2023 Conference in their latest newsletter.

This year’s PA Abandoned Mine Reclamation (AMR) conference was combined with the National Association of State Land Reclamationists (NASLR) conference and resulted in a very well attended event with 170 attendees. 

The 3-day conference was held at the Altoona Grand Hotel and started on October 24th with a field tour. Participants of the tour were taken through the westward edge of the Appalachian Mountains through an area known as the Allegheny Front, where heavy presence of sandstone, limestone, and coal seams have resulted in centuries’ worth of mining and significantly impacted landscapes and watersheds.

Stops along the tour included a Title V coal refuse valley fill reclamation site known as Mine 33, the Blacklick Treatment Plant which is anticipated to treat 7.2 million gallons of AMD per day, and the Colver Green Energy Power Plant. 

This amazing power plant is powered by waste coal alone and produces enough electricity to power 130,000 homes. Other stops along the tour involved AMD treatment sites suggested by the PA DEP Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation (BAMR).

The second and third days of the conference were full of informative talks by environmental professionals from diverse backgrounds, including speakers from the PA DEP BAMR, the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, numerous environmental consulting firms, nonprofit organizations, foundations, and universities. 

Long-time SRWC member and Executive Director of the nonprofit Stream Restoration Incorporated, Cliff Denholm, gave a talk titled “Data Collection and Interpretation for Successful AMD Treatment Projects” to share insight on what makes sampling events successful for researchers, watershed groups, and other individuals interested in restoration of watersheds impacted by AMD. 

Many presentations focused on funding under the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill and Jobs Act for increased reclamation and AMD remediation projects. 

Presentations can be viewed on the 2023 PA AMR Conference website.

Aside from the amazing learning opportunities presented at the conference, new friendships and memories were made thanks to the great networking opportunities involving a cornhole tournament and an improv jam session featuring guitars, a didgeridoo, many percussion instruments, and many, many vocalists. 

Rehab At SR81 Passive Treatment System

Also featured in the December SRWC newsletter is the rehabilitation of the SR81 passive mine drainage treatment system in Butler County.

The Slippery Rock Watershed Coalition (SRWC) has been actively engaged in a public-private partnership since 1994 to restore the severely degraded headwaters of Slippery Rock Creek. 

Over 20 passive systems have been installed to treat abandoned mine discharges, addressing issues like iron, aluminum, and acidity. 

These systems, some over two decades old, collectively neutralize acidity and remove metals. 

This has significantly improved water quality, allowing fish to return to stretches of the stream for the first time in over a century. 

The SRWC faces challenges with the aging passive treatment systems, particularly concerning maintenance and media replacement.

Proactive maintenance needs are a priority, and were successfully seen this year with the rehab of the SR81 system. 

Originally constructed in the year 2002, SR81 is located to the west of the town of Hilliards in Washington Township, Butler County. 

The SR81 passive treatment system was built to address two acidic, metal bearing discharges through use of an anoxic limestone drain (ALD), settling pond, and aerobic wetland. 

During its construction, a mine pool was unintentionally broken into, causing the flow entering the system to increase from 60 gpm to 280 gpm. 

Despite having increased flow and contaminant loads passing through, the system performed well for 16 years by neutralizing 66,500 pounds of acidity per year and by removing 24,800 pounds of dissolved iron per year. 

Even so, the SR81 system was dramatically undersized for the load it was treating and has not always produced net-alkaline water.

As part of this rehab project, the SR81 system was expanded by converting some of the treatment components into an additional ALD and by expanding the existing wetland. 

Iron sludge and organic matter were removed from the settling pond and wetland and placed into a newly constructed sludge pond onsite. 

To account for increased flow rate and contaminant loads that occurred due to a break in the mine pool during original construction of SR81, the SRWC proposed to expand the system. 

The ALD was expanded by converting the existing settling pond and part of the wetland into a second ALD containing 3,500 tons of limestone. 

A portion of the wetland was reconfigured into a settling pond, and the wetland itself was expanded on the west end. 

Part of the naturally existing wetland was spread out to distribute flow and to enhance retention time of contaminants. PVC Z-piles were used as directional barriers. 

Iron sludge and organic debris were removed from the settling pond and wetland to help give new life to an aging system expected to keep on cleaning AMD water for many years to come.

Click Here to read the entire newsletterClick Here to sign up for your own copy.

For more information on programs, projects, upcoming events and how you can get involved, visit the Slippery Rock Watershed Coalition website.  Follow them on FacebookClick Here to sign up to sign up for regular updates.

The Butler County-based Coalition was established in 1994 to restore land, water and wildlife resources in the Slippery Rock Watershed.

(Photos: John Stefanko, DEP; Robert Hughes, Executive Director, EPCAMR and Janie French.)

[Posted: December 25, 2023]  PA Environment Digest

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