Penn. DEP announces project to reclaim abandoned coal processing facility

Project will remove hazardous buildings, materials; Revegetate site in Washington Township of Dauphin County to help rehabilitate ailing watershed...

HARRISBURG, PA, April 11, 2005 (PRNewswire) -- State Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen A. McGinty announced a $184,510 contract to reclaim the abandoned A.D. Coal Co. coal processing facility in Washington Township, Dauphin County, removing threats to public health and safety and eliminating acid mine drainage and erosion that affect local water quality.

The project was awarded to Lycoming Supply Inc. of Williamsport, Lycoming County. Funding for the project comes from forfeited reclamation bonds and a federal fund for the reclamation of abandoned mine lands that is supported by taxes paid by the active coal-mining industry on every ton of coal mined.

"This reclamation project involves removal and disposal of abandoned buildings and equipment, underground storage tanks and potentially hazardous materials," Secretary McGinty said while visiting the site with staff from DEP's Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation. "Work also will include grading coal refuse piles and planting trees and grasses to reduce acid mine drainage and erosion that degrade the Wiconisco Creek."

"This is one of thousands of sites in Pennsylvania where unregulated mining practices of the past threaten public safety and the environment, and we will continue our ongoing efforts to reclaim these sites," Secretary McGinty said.

The coal-processing site, built in the early 1940s, was operated by A.D. Coal Co. from 1987 until it was abandoned in 1990. The site contains a partially collapsed 70-foot-tall coal preparation plant, underground storage tanks, asbestos-containing materials, abandoned processing equipment and piles of fine coal refuse.

The entire site will be graded to approximate pre-use contours and planted with grasses and a tree-seed mixture. The project is expected to take about 10 months to complete.

Gov. Edward G. Rendell's Growing Greener II initiative proposes using $100 million over four years to address a vast array of environmental and public health problems at abandoned mine sites. The General Assembly has passed a similar plan, called GreenPA. The Administration is working with legislative leaders this week to secure a vote on a compromise plan that preserves the funding levels provided by Growing Greener II.

Without new revenue resources, the state faces at least 350 years of mine cleanup. There are 8,529 acres of unreclaimed refuse piles with 258 million tons of waste coal in Pennsylvania. The state has at least 2,000 abandoned and flooding mine pools statewide, discharging polluted water from about 5,000 known points and threatening the health of our rivers and streams. More than 4,000 miles of streams are impaired by polluted mine drainage.

Gov. Rendell also has put Pennsylvania in a leadership role in the fight to ensure that Congress reauthorizes a federal mine reclamation fund and that the Commonwealth secures its fair share. Under a reauthorization plan put before Congress before the last legislative session ended, Pennsylvania's share of funding would have increased to $35 million annually from roughly $24 million per year. The fund expires at the end of June.

For more information on abandoned mine reclamation, visit the department's Web site at www.dep.state.pa.us, Keyword: "DEP Abandoned Mines."

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