AP NEWS

Group Lobbies For Support In Mine Land Cleanup

March 30, 2019

The Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation made a strong pitch Thursday before a Congressional committee for bipartisan support of continued cleanup of mine-scarred land.

Robert E. Hughes, executive director of EPCAMR, testified before the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources.

Pennsylvania is effectively riddled with abandoned mine lands and abandoned mine drainage, sites that need to be cleaned up with continued bipartisan support since these landscapes and waterways show no regard for Congressional or municipal boundaries, Hughes testified.

The subcommittee hearing theme was “Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation: Innovative Approaches and Economic Development Opportunities.”

Hughes listed the legacy of coal mining: Mine fires, abandoned mine drainage, mine subsidence, hazardous abandoned vertical shafts and slope openings, flooded mine pools, contaminated water supplies, water-filled stripping pits, contaminated soils, ash piles, culm banks and coal refuse mountains.

These examples of past mining practices “have hindered economic development opportunities. Our culm banks or gob piles, are often mistaken by those who pass through the region as mountains because they have birch or poplar trees growing on them in the acidic soil conditions and don’t really comprehend the scale of the problem that we face,’’ Hughes said.

The projected costs of reclamation, abatement, and remediation are substantial and smaller communities lack the financial resources to tackle the problems, Hughes said.

“Simply put, are looking for better opportunities, jobs, workforce development, and reclamation funding to significantly improve our quality of life and our surrounding environment,” Hughes testified.

“We’ve come up with innovative solutions from within our communities, yet we are at an extreme disadvantage in not having access to the resources and financial means to fully implement our ideas with enthusiasm and confidence. We don’t deserve to have to wait any longer for clean streams, green spaces, vibrant and diversified regional economies, and communities in which our children can safely recreate, live, work, and play. We want to continue to revitalize and revive our communities so that people want to stay and raise their families,” Hughes said.

The need for reclamation is bipartisan when it comes to the unreclaimed acid mine land inventory, the EPCAMR chief said. He cited Pennsylvania’s 8th Congressional District as plagued by 322 unreclaimed sites, 1,615 unreclaimed features, for a total of 14,267 unreclaimed acres, 6,414 reclaimed acres, and 192 miles of AMD-impacted streams. Some of the unreclaimed features include Old Forge Borehole and the Jeddo Mine Tunnel, (two of the largest discharges in Pennsylvania by flow volume), Duryea Breach, Plainsville Borehole, Solomon Boreholes and Askam mine drainage.

In the 15th Congressional District in central and western Pennsylvania’s bituminous coalfields, there are 2,649 unreclaimed sites and 13,673 unreclaimed features for a total of 91,387 unreclaimed acres, 17,568 reclaimed acres, and 2,706 miles of AMD-impacted streams.

EPCAMR has been a leader in environmental educational. The nonprofit, based in the Earth Conservancy building on South Main Street, Ashley, encourages the reclamation and redevelopment of land and remediation of polluted mine water affected by past mining practices.