Funding Approved to Support Environmental Cleanup, Revitalization Project in Abandoned Mine in Venango Co.

| April 7, 2018

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Yesterday, Governor Tom Wolf announced the approval of $25 million in funding for environmental cleanup and revitalization projects at 12 abandoned mine land (AML) locations in fourteen municipalities across Pennsylvania, including one in Venango County.

In Venango County, funding was approved for TASA refuse piles/South Sandy Creek restoration, Irwin Township. About 200,000 tons of acid-forming coal refuse will be excavated and sent to Scrubgrass Generating Station for electricity generation, enabling the company to add new employees. Elimination of a major source of AMD to tributaries to South Sandy Creek and Williams Run will improve about 13 miles of stream and improve local groundwater quality. The reclaimed site is anticipated to be used for agricultural purposes.

In a press release, Governor Wolf said, “These projects demonstrate my administration’s strong commitment to assisting Pennsylvania communities in overcoming the challenges of abandoned mine land.”

“While it protects public health and safety through environmental cleanup, the disbursement of this funding will also support the creation of thousands of jobs, create new residential and business opportunities, and revitalize communities and outdoor recreation spaces that attract people and improve quality of life. I’m thrilled that we could support these important projects.”

The approved abandoned mine cleanup projects will help eliminate public health and safety hazards and improve stream, groundwater, and land quality. The local community and economic development projects include the following: a regional airport expansion, new business parks, a residential development, reuse of coal waste in electricity generation, and outdoor sports and recreation amenities, such as trails, ballfields, and fishing.

“Mine reclamation is the exacting process of removing acid mine drainage from streams, neutralizing acidity in the soil; removing dangerous mine highwalls; stabilizing sinkholes; and addressing other hazards,” said Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “But ‘mine reclamation’ ultimately means a renewal of possibility for coal communities, and this can be a game-changer.”

The DEP Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation solicited proposals and selected projects based on federal guidelines and project benefits. DEP also provides or assists with the technical expertise needed to restore land, water, and air quality at the abandoned mine sites. The Wolf Administration is leading the coordination of more than 30 local organizations, businesses, and individuals to accomplish these important projects in an impactful way.

Project funding comes from the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE) 2017 AML Pilot Program, which specifically targets abandoned mine cleanup projects that are linked to local community and economic development goals.

“OSMRE is pleased to partner with Pennsylvania’s AML Program to implement these AML Pilot Program projects to reclaim abandoned mine sites and provide local economic revitalization and community development benefits,” said Thomas Shope, OSMRE Appalachian Regional Director.

The full list of 2017 AML Pilot Projects includes:

Beaver County

  • Zelienople Municipal Airport expansion, Franklin Township: Over 3,400 feet of mine highwall and a 12-acre hillside obstruction will be removed. The runway will be extended, adding more flight options and about 25 new jobs.

Cambria County

  • Stineman refuse pile reclamation/Path of the Flood Trail extension, South Fork Borough and Adams Township: Twenty acres of coal refuse will be pulled away from the South Fork Little Conemaugh River, improving river health. The Path of the Flood Trail will be extended to the Johnstown Flood Memorial, completing the trail. This will enhance the popular annual trail race; opportunities for educational tourism, hiking, biking, and kayaking; and related local commerce.

Carbon County

  • Quakake Tunnel acid mine drainage treatment/trout stream restoration/Black Creek Trail creation, Packer Township and Weatherly Borough: An active treatment system to remove acid will restore 8 miles of wild trout stream (Quakake Creek and Black Creek). The new Black Creek Trail will be constructed from Weatherly Borough to Lehigh Gorge State Park, and opportunities for outdoor recreation and related local commerce will increase.

Clearfield County

  • Potts Run acid mine drainage treatment/stream restoration, Knox Township: A passive treatment system to lower acidity should remove this stream from the impaired waters list and restore it as a coldwater fishery, improving property values and outdoor recreation opportunities.

Lackawanna County

  • Lackawanna College subsidence abatement, Scranton: Filling underground mine voids under a six-story building that’s part of the new Cornerstone Commons will enable use of the building for classrooms and other uses, leading to about 90 full- or part-time jobs as well as construction and indirect employment.

Luzerne County

  • CAN DO North Park Drive Business Park, Hazle Township: Almost 130 acres of mine land will be regraded to pre-mining conditions to be developed into seven developable parcels in the CAN DO Industrial Park.
  • Hollars Hill South AML site and Cranberry Creek Gateway Project, Hazle Township: About 150 acres of mine spoil, industrial/residential waste, and hazardous structures will be reclaimed for a community ballfield complex and to allow development of the planned residential, retail, and commercial development called Cranberry Creek Gateway.
  • Earth Conservancy Bliss Bank 3 Business Park, Hanover and Newport Townships: Remediation of 55 acres of mined land, including 1,200 feet of dangerous mine highwalls, will allow the completion of the 220-acre Bliss Bank business park. With active recruitment of nationwide companies underway, about 1,000 full-time jobs are anticipated.
  • Swoyersville refuse pile/community athletic complex, Swoyersville Borough: In the first phase of the Swoyersville culm bank reclamation, approximately 15 acres of the 55-acre coal refuse pile will be removed and remediated, with over 2 million cubic yards of refuse anticipated to be usable for electricity cogeneration facilities. Floodplain restoration will improve water quality in the Abrahams Creek Watershed and reduce flooding. Seven acres of the reclaimed property will be transferred to Swoyersville Borough for development of a new community athletic complex that will allow multiple teams to play, drawing more people to the borough.

Schuylkill County

  • Donaldson Culm Bank Stream Restoration, Frailey Township: Coal waste will be removed along Good Spring Creek, currently designated as clogged stream land, and repurposed for local power generation. Nearly 18 acres of floodplain and wetlands will be created, reducing flooding, and the restored site will become an environmental park with trails.
  • Porter Floodplain restoration, West Brunswick Township: Coal silt will be removed from 10 acres of clogged stream land, processed, and sold as fuel. Water quality in the Schuylkill River will be improved, and a missing section of the Schuylkill River Trail Network between the Auburn and Hamburg trail heads will be constructed, increasing opportunities for fishing, hiking, and other outdoor recreation and related local commerce.

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