Permit Changes Sought for Steele Shaft Mine Water Treatment System in Dunkard

Washington PA Observer-Reporter
19 April 2016
By Bob Niedbala

AMD Reclamation Inc. and Dana Mining Co. filed an application with the state Department of Environmental Protection seeking a mining permit for its Steele Shaft mine water treatment plant in Dunkard Township.

The plant treats polluted water from the abandoned Shannopin Mine to prevent a surface discharge and to allow Dana Mining to mine Sewickley seam coal overlaying the Pittsburgh seam previously mined by Shannopin.

The treatment system has been permitted since it began operation in 2003 under a post-mining activity permit. However, AMD was asked by U.S. Office of Surface Mining to permit the system under a surface mining activities permit, DEP spokesman John Poister said.

“It’s really just a change in title (under which the system is permitted), and it won’t have any effect on the operations at all,” Poister said.

The companies are not permitting new mining operations, he said. Instead, their application is more like a “permit renewal for an ongoing activity.”

AMD and Dana built the plant in 2003 with partial funding from the state to treat polluted water in the abandoned Shannopin Mine. Acidic water in the mine reached a level at which it could breach the surface and pollute Dunkard Creek.

Dana also needed to lower the water level in the Shannopin mine to enable its 4 West Mine to safely mine the overlaying Sewickley seam coal. Dana later also began treating water from the former Humphrey Mine as its mining operations moved into the area above the Humphrey Mine.

Under an agreement with DEP reached in 2014, the companies proposed expanding the system to treat additional abandoned mine discharges along Dunkard Creek and establishing a trust fund to partially fund the long-term operation of Steele Shaft after its mining operations ceased.

The treatment plant originally was permitted to treat mine water to meet the “best available technology” limits for ph, iron, manganese and aluminum. As part of the 2014 agreement, the company was not required to comply with a more stringent standard defined as “water quality based effluent limits” for nine years.

A spokesman for Dana Mining could not be reached Tuesday for comment.