Drilling Into Mine Set

Morgantown Dominion Post
21 July 2014
By David Beard

Friends of Deckers Creek (FODC) is preparing to take a small step in its Richard Mine acid mine drainage cleanup project.

The first of a series of bore holes will be drilled into the mine so the chemistry of the Richard Mine pool can be studied and the best site for a treatment plant determined.

FODC Water Remediation Project Manager Tim Denicola told members of its restoration team that a contractor is slated to drill the hole July 31. The access will enable a geotechnical study.

Denicola said its contractor, GAI Consultants, secured Uniontown, Pa.-based driller Redstone International to install and monitor the exploratory well. The bore hole will be 4 inches across. FODC previously secured an agreement with a Brookhaven landowner for the well site.

As previously reported, this project will cost about $30,000. GAI previously recommended to the Natural Resources Conservation Services that 23 such wells be drilled, and FODC would like to drill more in order to get a better picture of the pool. But that would be expensive: 10 wells are estimated at about $200,000.

Armed with information from the study, Denicola said, FODC will begin community outreach to hear feedback and gain support for its project.

The Richard Mine is the single largest source of acid mine drainage into the creek: 200 gallons per minute. That’s enough to fill a 22,000-gallon, 16 by 32 foot backyard swimming pool with an 8 foot deep end in 110 minutes, less than two hours. Each year, that contaminated flow puts into the creek 730,500 pounds of acidity, 140,000 pounds of iron, 59,000 pounds of aluminum and 3,200 pounds of manganese, FODC reports.

All that metal, plus the acidity, turns the creek orange and kills the aquatic life for its last 5.3 miles.

On a positive note, the many successful cleanup efforts upstream illustrate the promise of the Richard Mine project.

“I think the community is becoming aware of what Deckers Creek could look like without the Richard Mine discharge,” Denicola said.

Restoration Team member Martin Christ, a former FODC staffer and Denicola’s predecessor, said the team consists of various stakeholders who are interested in improving the creek. Among other things, they discuss and prioritize projects and exchange information.

There are others

Richard Mine is the biggest mine drainage project on the creek, but not the only one. Discharge points extend up into Preston County.

Denicola updated team members on four Preston projects in the works and one he hopes to start.

In the works:

The Slabcamp Tributary site, south of Masontown, has five discharge sources and pumps 78,637 pounds of acidity per year into the creek, plus 1,287 pounds of iron and 5,855 pounds of aluminum.

The Ingrand Mine’s four discharges dump in 40,485 pounds of acidity, 3,222 pounds of iron and 3,068 pounds of aluminum. This project and the next two are all east of Reedsville.

Valley Point 12 has two sources, pumping in 32,854 pounds of acidity, 6,761 pounds of iron and 1,620 pounds of aluminum.

Kanes Creek South No. 1 has a remediation setup but needs upgrades. It deposits 10,485 pounds of acidity, 988 pounds of iron and 370 pounds of aluminum annually.

If there’s money available, he said, the Valley Highwall site also needs an upgrade. It deposits 21,955 pounds of acidity, 1,492 pounds of iron and 758 pounds of aluminum per year.

Watershed plan

Denicola’s work also includes preparing a Watershed Based Plan.

Christ said that this plan is a prerequisite for Clean Water Act Section 319 funds for non-point source pollution cleanup. When completed, it will be posted on the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) website.

Non-point sources, Christ said, include farm runoff and mines abandoned before the 1977 federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (which allowed coal operators to walk away from ongoing liabilities with the stipulation that anything they disturbed after Aug. 3, 1977, would be reclaimed, according to the DEP).

The plan includes 13 possible remediation projects, such as Dillan Creek, Glady Run, Beulah Hollow and Hartman Run.

Also on the list is the Rock Forge Mine discharge. The Rock Forge mine sits across W.Va. 7 from the Richard Mine, under Eastgate, Denicola said. It discharges into the creek near the same point as the Richard Mine.

The Rock Forge discharge is significantly smaller than Richard’s, Denicola said — only 1,000 pounds of acidity per year. But it makes sense to take care of it. “If we succeed with the multi-million dollar Richard Mine project, it would be embarrassing” to have Rock Forge degrade the last stretch of the creek.