The Department of Environmental Protection this week awarded $559,472 to four innovative mine drainage treatment projects intended to develop cost-effective ways to treat the thousands of mine discharges and acidic seeps.
Funds for the innovative mine drainage treatment projects come from the Growing Greener II initiative.
The grant awards include:
Pennsylvania State University - $186,392 to develop a passive pretreatment technology for high-flow acid mine drainage discharges that exploits natural biological low-pH Fe(II) oxidation. This “aeration terrace” mimics the physical features of natural iron mounds, where oxidation has been measured to be most rapid. The project will be located at the Hughes Borehole in Portage, Cambria County which discharges up to 3,000 gallons per minute of highly-acidic high-metal content mine drainage into the Little Conemaugh River.
Stream Restoration Inc. - $157,153 for feasibility analysis of combining and conveying abandoned underground mine discharges at the Erie, Langeloth and Francis mines to a single location in Washington County. Treatment of the combined discharges will be more cost-effective at one facility, rather than four and relocation of the discharges will restore approximately six miles of stream in the Raccoon Creek Watershed. A power plant under construction in the area may be able to use and treat the water, thus eliminating the need to build and maintain passive treatment systems. Future use or treatment of the relocated discharge will restore approximately 26 miles of Raccoon Creek.
Western Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation - $182,595 to test a new type of low-cost aeration system with low energy requirements. The technology has the potential to improve performance at existing aerobic settling ponds, decrease the size of new installations and increase the amount of solids captured. The system will be tested at sites in Westmoreland and Allegheny counties.
Broad Top Township, Bedford County - $33,332 to evaluate the effectiveness of steel slag as a cost-effective means of neutralizing acidity and removing heavy metals from mine drainage. The steel slag will come from a currently unusable industrial site, thereby helping to clean up that site as well.
Pennsylvania has more than 180,000 acres of unmarked shafts, unstable cliffs, water-filled pits and abandoned equipment and buildings remaining from when mining was largely unregulated prior to 1977. More than two billion tons of waste coal piles exist statewide. Some 6,200 miles of rivers and streams are polluted or degraded by acid mine discharge.