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Report: New York’s dredged mud could seal Pennsylvania mines

August 10, 1997

NEW YORK (AP) _ Hoping to solve two environmental problems in one fell swoop, three states want to use mud dredged from New York Harbor to seal abandoned coal mines in Pennsylvania, The New York Times reported Sunday.

The deal could provide a long-term depository for dredged harbor mud and give Pennsylvania an inexpensive solution to a nagging problem, the paper said, quoting officials from New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Many of the abandoned coal mines leach acid runoff into rivers and streams.

``It’s potentially a win-win for everybody,″ said Ernest Giovannitti, Pennsylvania’s director of mine reclamation. ``The harbor benefits, and we get some reclamation accomplished for nothing that we probably wouldn’t get to do otherwise.″

Current estimates put the cost of sealing Pennsylvania’s old coal mines without the harbor mud at $15 billion, according to the Times. The state’s Department of Environmental Protection issued a permit in June to allow as much as 500,000 tons of the mud to be deposited in the mines.

Much of it contains traces of dioxin, heavy metals and other pollutants, but federal and state environmental officials say it does not pose a risk to people or the land.

For decades, the mud was dumped at sea. Federal rules protecting marine life now outlaw that practice. And New York and New Jersey officials encountered resistance when they tried to get rid of it on land.

Some environmental groups have attacked the plan.

Jeffrey Schmidt, a lobbyist at the Pennsylvania chapter of the Sierra Club, said the project appeared hastily approved and poorly designed.

The project is still in the planning stages, and can go forward only if it is chosen over proposals competing in a federal bidding process.

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