DEP: Leak Didn’t Kill Fish

Mine drainage stained Dunkard tributary red

Morgantown Dominion Post
4 April 2012
By David Beard

A mine drainage leak into a Dunkard Creek tributary Sunday did not kill any fish, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) said Tuesday.

DEP spokeswoman Kathy Cosco said Dana Mining Co. reported the leak from a pumping station along Dolls Run, near Mason-Dixon Historic Park.

A DEP inspector visited the site Monday and found the creek stained red from the iron content of the mine water.

The inspector collected field samples and lab samples.

The lab samples are still being tested, but the field sample showed a normal pH, posing no danger to aquatic life.

The inspector walked the 1.5 miles of Dolls Run to where it enters Dunkard and saw many live fish, but no dead fish.

The entire stretch of Dolls Run was stained red.

There was slight reddish-orange staining on the downstream bank at confluence with Dunkard for about 30 yards, Cosco said.

Dana was issued a notice of violation, Cosco said, for “causing conditions not allowable” in Dolls Run.

Dana will repair the pipeline and must notify the DEP 24 hours before it plans to resume pumping, so an inspector can be present.

Cosco said the DEP doesn’t typically require any action to address the iron staining — the natural water flow is the best solution to allow it to return to normal.

Betty Wiley, with the Dunkard Creek Watershed Association, said this pipeline drains a defunct Pittsburgh seam mine.

The water is transferred from one borehole to another, and then to a treatment site before flowing into the river.

The purpose is to keep the water from rising into the Sewickley seam that lies above the Pittsburgh mine.

Dana Vice President of Engineering Brian Osborn said the drainage system protects the miners working in the Sewickley seam and allows Dana to access new reserves.

Osborn said the leak did not come from a pipe, but from a fitting on top of a borehole.

A previous contractor had used the wrong kind of steel, which corroded and allowed a small hole to develop — a few inches wide and about an inch high.

The contractor on site, Osborn said, discovered the leak at about 7:15 p.m. Sunday, shut the pumps off and reported the leak.

It was leaking underground and they were “just lucky to catch it.”

Osborn arrived about 20 minutes after being notified and the pumps were already off.

Dana immediately started repairs, he said, and expects them to be done by the end of the week.

Because of the required notice to get an inspector on site and approve the violation abatement, they don’t expect to resume pumping until sometime next week.

Osborn said any fine associated with the notice of violation would be assessed at a later date.

Wiley said watershed group observers were watching the creek, saw the staining and reported it to officials.

She visited the site herself, she said, and spoke to Osborn about the leak.

The water is already looking better, Wiley said.