The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation received a national award for its cleanup work regarding approximately 27 acres of coal refuse piles in South Fork Borough in Cambria County, which posed multiple environmental threats to the area.
The 2021 Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Appalachian States Award was awarded to the Stineman Refuse project for the work that also included cleaning parts of the refuse pile that had burned in the past that resulted in refuse material known as “red dog,” which is hardened and burnt.
The refuse pile debilitated surrounding areas by leaching acidic metals into the Conemaugh River. The Stineman Refuse project in South Fork Borough removed coal wash piles along the Path of the Flood Trail, creating a safer walking trail and expanding recreation opportunities along the South Fork Little Conemaugh River.
“This project strengthened the beauty in the area, assuring a healthier environment for residents and community visitors” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell.
Frequent erosion clogged the unnamed tributary to the Little Conemaugh River and highly acidic water leached into and subsequently impaired local streams. To address these hazards, Pennsylvania’s Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Program removed and recontoured the refuse piles. Additionally, by repurposing the access road used during construction, a 1.6 mile extension of the Path of the Flood Trail was established.
From 2017, grants of more than $327 million have been injected into Pennsylvania's economy for the construction of similar projects to reclaim health and hazards associated with abandoned mine lands and abate the effects of abandoned mine drainage pollution. These projects also maintain and revitalize the economies of surrounding coalfield communities. More information about all of these projects can be found on the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's website at dep.pa.gov/AML.
The Stineman project has resulted in new opportunities for recreation and a safer walking trail.
The awards are presented by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement and highlight the most impressive Abandoned Mine Land reclamation projects in America each year.