Reclaiming History: Work Begins At Swoyersville Coal Waste Site
SWOYERSVILLE — The mountain of coal waste that’s been an eyesore to borough residents for generations finally is being hauled away.
Officials gathered at the site of the former Harry E. Colliery on Tuesday to break ground on a project that many thought would never begin in their lifetime.
“When I talk to people who grew up in the area, they thought this would never come to reality,” state Rep. Aaron Kaufer, R-120, Kingston, said, trying to speak over the sound of heavy equipment. “This is truly a historic day.”
In all, there are four million tons of waste coal left behind on the 55-acre site. The first phase of work will focus on a seven-acre plot next to houses on Slocum, Tripp and Perrin streets.
Heavy equipment started moving coal waste into piles on Tuesday, a substance those in the industry call “black sand.” The substance and other more rocky coal waste materials will be hauled away to coal-fired power plant in Northampton County to produce electricity.
Eventually contractors will dig up 40 feet of coal waste material from the surface until they reach native soil. The ground will be leveled and grass will be planted.
Swoyersville will then develop the land, likely with a sports field.
“Everyone said, ‘I’ll believe it when I see it.’ Now you can see it,” Swoyersville Mayor Chris Concert said.
The seven-acre plot being reclaimed should be finished next year. From there, officials with the contractor, Olympus Power, will move on to reclaim an additional 13 acres of mine-scarred land over the next six years.
The project was the result of cooperation with federal, state and local officials and private businesses like Olympus.
Local leaders said they’ll need to secure more grant money to reclaim the other 35 acres on the site.
“The Harry E mine reclamation project is a good illustration of how coal refuse companies are helping communities, like Swoyersville, address the serious environmental impact of long abandoned mine-scarred land,” state Sen. John Yudichak, D-14, Plymouth Twp., said in a statement. “Rep. Kaufer and I support this important public-private partnership formed by DEP, EPCAMR, and Olympus Power that will sustain energy jobs, eradicate fifty acres of blighted landscape, and create new open space recreational opportunities for residents of Swoyersville Borough.”
Contact the writer:
HISTORY OF THE COLLIERY: The “bucket of blood.”
The coal breaker at the Harry E. Colliery in Swoyersville had an ominous nickname, the “bucket of blood.”
“It had a reputation for killing people. A lot of people died there,” said Hank Zielinski, of Harveys Lake, a fuels manager for Northampton Generating Company, which is using coal waste from the colliery to produce electricity.
The colliery was named for Harry E. Broderick, the son of one of the founding families of the anthracite mining community in what is now Swoyersville.
Mining operations began there in the late 1880s. The Harry E. coal breaker, which replaced various others, opened in 1942. It was one of the biggest in the are and featured technology that was considered modern for its time.
It received anthracite coal from the Harry E. and Forty Fort mines. The Harry E. was razed in 1995, decades after it closed.
Nearly four million tons of coal waste was left behind at the site.