Groups file appeal on mine water treatment permit allowing dirty water to be released into creek

HARRISBURG, PA, Jan. 4, 2010 -- Attorneys with Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future (PennFuture) last week filed an appeal before the Environmental Hearing Board challenging an amendment to the permit for the Shannopin Mine Dewatering Project...

• Permit changed without public notice

HARRISBURG, PA, Jan. 4, 2010 -- Attorneys with Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future (PennFuture) last week filed an appeal before the Environmental Hearing Board challenging an amendment to the permit for the Shannopin Mine Dewatering Project. The appeal was filed on behalf of Friends of Dunkard Creek, as well as PennFuture.

The Shannopin Mine Dewatering Project, which was designed to prevent a catastrophic breakout of acid mine water from the abandoned Shannopin Mine into Dunkard Creek, was originally granted a permit allowing less stringent cleanup of the dangerous water. The challenged permit amendment, for which no public notice was given, would allow the project to collect water from Consolidation Coal Company's (Consol) permitted Humphrey No. 7 Mine, where no breakout risk exists, and to treat that water to the less than optimal cleanup allowed in the original emergency situation. The permit amendment was granted by the Department of Environmental Protection's (DEP) Mining Program despite a finding nine months before by a DEP biologist that the Shannopin Project's discharge into Dunkard Creek contained high levels of Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) and other pollutants, which were causing harm to aquatic life in the creek. The permit amendment was issued two months after a massive kill of fish, mussels, and salamanders occurred in more than 40 miles of Dunkard Creek.

"The lax water cleanup standards were allowed originally to avert an emergency -- an impending breakout of acid mine pollution from the abandoned Shannopin Mine that would have severely polluted miles of Dunkard Creek and the Monongahela River," said PennFuture Senior Attorney Kurt Weist. "The relaxed standards do not apply to the water being pumped from Consol's permitted Humphrey No. 7 Mine, which is not being done to avert a disaster, but to allow mining of the coal reserves above the Humphrey Mine.

"In March, DEP's water quality experts recommended that more stringent water quality limits be included in the renewal of the discharge permit for the Shannopin Project, which is now nearly sixteen months overdue," continued Weist. "It obviously is unreasonable to issue an amendment allowing another source of mine drainage to be connected to the Shannopin Project's treatment system before DEP renews the existing permit and puts the more protective limits into effect."

Jim O'Connell of Friends of Dunkard Creek agreed, "How anyone could have granted this permit revision after the destruction we experienced last summer is beyond me. And you can bet that if there had been any public notice, DEP would have heard our objections loud and clear. It's time to reverse this backroom deal and clean up the water."

A copy of the appeal filed by PennFuture is online at http://www.pennfuture.org/userfiles10/CalvinRunNOAwithoutattachments.pdf

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