Acid Mine Drainage Near Ten Mile Creek Prompts Letter From State
Washington PA Observer Reporter
4 May 2013
Orange water spilling across state Route 88 in West Bethlehem
Township prompted a state representative to question the
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s response to
a faulty acid mine treatment facility near Ten Mile Creek.
Rep. Pam Snyder, D-50th District, sent a letter to DEP Secretary
Christopher Abruzzo April 12 requesting information on the acid
mine water draining from the nearby abandoned Clyde Mine.
“I was driving down the highway, and I saw that the road was red,”
Snyder said. “It made me take pause. I said, ‘What’s going on
Snyder said a brief phone conversation with a DEP official
revealed that a treatment facility at the abandoned mine had been
shut down, causing acid mine drainage to spill across the roadway
and into local waterways.
“I wanted a resolution to (the problem) because their recent
monitoring had showed the flow had doubled,” Snyder said. “I have
not gotten a response back to my letter yet. I just want to make
sure everything that could possibly be done to resolve this issue
is being done.”
DEP community relations coordinator John Poister confirmed the
leak. “We are certainly aware of the problem, and we are working
on a plan right now designed to solve the problem on Ten Mile
Creek,” Poister said.
The DEP took over control of the mine water treatment plant in
2000 when the former owner went bankrupt. Poister said a clogged
borehole had collapsed last year and stopped the acid mine
drainage treatment facility from operating.
Poister did not know exactly how much polluted water was being
leaked but said DEP monitoring showed the volume recently had
increased. He said it should not be harmful to wildlife, residents
or recreational users of the waterway in the short term.
Poister said the Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation was
scheduled to begin the field work phase of the project within the
next three or four weeks.
Paul Battaglini, commissioner at large for East Bethlehem
Township, said he first noticed the problem earlier this spring as
winter snows began to melt. He said acid mine drainage has long
been a problem in this part of Western Pennsylvania, but recent
cleanup efforts have gone a long way to restoring local waterways.
“I remember when I was a young person in the early ’60s, the Ten
Mile was all orange,” Battaglini said. “There were dead fish
Abandoned coal mines often fill with water that becomes
contaminated and turns orange from its interaction with high
levels of iron. The water then seeps into local waterways, where
the acidity has the potential to wreak havoc on PH levels. Fish
and other aquatic wildlife sensitive to PH levels often die as a
In addition to the toll on wildlife, Battaglini said he worried
about the effect the acid mine seepage could have on recreational
activities in the area. The contaminated water in Ten Mile Creek
flows downstream directly into the Monongahela River.
“We only have another month before Memorial Day,” Battaglini said.
“Green Cove, Sunset Marina, all the docks along Ten Mile – that’s
a gorgeous piece of water. This could disrupt everything for
skiers to kayakers to boaters, everyone.”
Battaglini said the timing for the ecological contamination was
“Just when we get the river cleaned up and it’s the River of the
Year in Pennsylvania, this happens a mile away in Ten Mile,”
Battaglini said. The Monongahela River recently beat out the
Susquehanna River to be named as Pennsylvania’s River of the Year
by the state Department of Conservation.
Rebecca Trigger, president of the Harry Enstrom chapter of the
Izaak Walton League, a nonprofit that aims to conserve and protect
natural resources, said the contamination could possibly
jeopardize the hard work organizers have done in recent years to
bring people to the water. “We’re deeply concerned about the
adverse effects to the environment and the people who are drinking
this water,” Trigger said.
The Izaak Walton League stocks Ten Mile Creek with trout and
monitors the water in the area. Trigger said although the tainted
mine water did not contain dangerous PH levels, higher-than-normal
levels of the chemical bromide were found at some test sites near
the area. When mixed with chemicals such as chlorine at water
treatment facilities, bromide can form the carcinogen
trihalomethane. The Monongahela River is a source of drinking
water for hundreds of thousands of residents in the Mon Valley
Poister acknowledged the bromide, but said DEP testing showed the
chemical wasn’t showing up in significant levels. He said if the
levels did rise to dangerous concentrations, facilities could
alter their treatment regimens to avoid creating the carcinogens.
Bromide isn’t usually associated with acid mine drainage from coal
mines. Poister said the DEP wasn’t sure of the source of the
chemical compound, but Trigger suspected it originated from nearby
natural gas activity.
“The bromide indicates that the residual wastewater from the
hydraulic fracturing process is getting into the mine shafts,”
While in the short term, small doses of mine discharge should not
have an adverse effect on the wildlife in Ten Mile Creek and the
Monongahela River, Trigger said the sudden appearance of the
orange water was disturbing.
“It’s very unpleasant to look at,” Trigger said. “Aesthetically,
it looks terrible, and we will continue to monitor it for adverse
health effects to people and the environment.”