13/08/2010 Today i arrived Ashley to visit the Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation and it’s Executive Director Robert Hughes, we visited 4 sites (Newport Township, Nanticoke, Old Forge and Wilkes-Barre)   affected by abandoned mines and suffering from acid mine damage/drainage,  local media came along and did coverage also, i never spected to find such a polluted environment, almost two days after my clothes are stained with a intense orange color and the strong smell of sulphur remains.

(above) Newport Lake-“Loch Mess”-an abandoned water-filled anthracite strip mining pit 20 acres in size, 40′ deep down the center of the pit floor, nearly 200′ feet across, 4/10s of a mile long down valley; The pit is flooded with abandoned mine drainage that enters the pit in several fractured areas along one side of the highwall to the camera right, looking down valley (north) of where we were shooting. The abandoned mine water has an alkaline pH of 6.2, very low acidity levels, and iron hydroxide levels that exceed 40 parts per million (40 mg/L). The orange-ish, red color exhibited in the pit and along the highwall’s edge is precipitated iron oxide that has dropped our of solution and deposited naturally on the rocks around the site and at the base of the natural vegetation that has grown around the water’s edge. Introduced the concept of native wetlands native vegetation or phytoremediation to treat the polluted abandoned mine drainage (AMD) utilizing plants such as cattails (typha latifolia), that have extensive, far reaching and dense rhizome root systems at the base of their stalks to filter out the iron oxide as it passes through the plants underwater roots.

(above) The Old Forge AMD Borehole (above) -This is a 50-80 million gallons per day discharge directly into the Lackawanna River, a major tributary to the Susquehanna River that mainly flows from Susquehanna County in the Forest City area at the very northern tip of the Anthracite Coal fields through Lackawanna and Luzerne Counties, mainly through the City of Scranton and Old Forge, with several smaller coal town communities in between the Lackawanna Valley.

Drilled by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1961, the Old Forge Bore Hole is the biggest abandoned mine drainage outfall in the Northern Field. At 400 feet deep, and 3 ½ feet in diameter, it was intentionally set in the lowest area of the Keyser Valley (Old Forge), the bore hole relieves a mine pool with the surface area of Lake Wallenpaupack or the size of one of the Finger Lakes. Although detrimental to the aquatic life of the Lackawanna, without the bore hole this water would seep into basements of low elevation houses and businesses from Blakley to Duryea.

(below) The area upstream of the discharge on the Lackawanna River is a very productive fishery and is full of aquatic insect life and plant life. While there are occasional combined sewer overflow problems in the Lackawanna and Susquehanna drainages, the water quality just north of the AMD discharge is much higher than all the water that flows south of the discharge for nearly 3 miles until the confluence with the Susquehanna River. The bedrock of the Lackawanna River is glacial sandstones in nature and erosion forces have scoured out hundreds of potholes in the riverbed as well as smooth surfaces on the bedrock all around the AMD discharge. There is a very dramatic temperature change from the Lackawanna River just upstream of the discharge and at the discharge itself. The temperature is nearly 52 degrees at the borehole and around 64 degrees on the Lackawanna.

(below) Solomon’s Creek AMD Boreholes-Three boreholes that were intentionally drilled into the banks along the Solomon’s Creek in South Wilkes-Barre to relieve the pressure of the AMD from flooding basements following the 1972 Agnes Flood ( http://www.agnesinnepa.org/ ). Solomon’s Creek flows through South Wilkes-Barre and further on south through Hanover Township, Buttonwood, and then out to the Susquehanna River, picking up, yet another AMD discharge from the Buttonwood Air Shaft that brings AMD from the West Side of the Wyoming Valley underneath the Susquehanna River back over to the East Side before discharging. The pH is around 6.2. The flow is over 10,000 gallons per minute. One of the 3 boreholes has an artesian flow and the other two are collapsed. The iron levels are high and upstream of the discharge is a cold water trout fishery. The sulfates are very high at this site too, with a noticeable smell or rotten eggs from the hydrogen sulfide gas that is given off as the water discharges and is aerated within the stream channel. This is another site that EPCAMR harvests the iron hydroxide and converts it to iron oxide.

At the end of the day Robert talks about future gas drilling in the area.

It’s time to take the road, next stop?, Wellisburg.

Media coverage here :  http://www.timesleader.com/news/Picturing_what_can_be_08-13-2010.html

For more information please contact:

Robert E. Hughes
EPCAMR Executive Director
101 S. Main Street
Ashley, PA 18706
570-371-3523 (phone)
570-371-3522 (fax)