Scott Township officials monitor acid mine drainage
By Doug Gulasy
Published: Tuesday, January 1, 2013, 8:43 p.m.
Updated: Friday, January 4, 2013
Debate continues about acid mine drainage in Scott, though a township official says the situation already has been addressed.
A lengthy discussion at last month's board of commissioners meeting concerned acid mine drainage running from the former O'Hommel Co. property at Hope Street down toward Washington Avenue.
Until the spring of 2010, similar acid mine drainage gushed from a hillside on Hope Hollow Road — “a naturally flowing orange waterfall” that flowed into Georges Run, township Manager Denise Fitzgerald said. Sometime that spring, during a period of extremely wet weather, the waterfall ceased at Hope Hollow Road — a trickle of water is all that's left — and the volume of drainage increased at the O'Hommel property, where the drainage previously occurred at a lower level.
Randy Lubin, Scott's director of public services, said a regional supervisor from the Department of Environmental Protection's Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation visited the site four or five times since the redirection occurred.
“He said something happened where something shifted underground, and where this water would always come out of this area — even though it's been years and years and years — (the shift) has now changed the direction of that water,” Lubin said. “He said it might be coming out more there on Hope Street ... and it also may be carrying more miles away, coming out more somewhere else.”
Lubin said the bureau sent a letter saying no more investigation of the site was warranted, but the debate has continued at several recent meetings.
Commissioner Bill Wells said he has received several complaints about the situation and is concerned with the potential for flooding.
“Sometimes, it comes down so fast (the area) can't take all the water,” Wells said, “and then it flows onto (Route) 50.”
Lubin said the area in question, located by GetGo on Washington Avenue, is low-lying and was prone to flooding in wet weather conditions both before and after the water redirection occurred.
Wells said he also is concerned about the pipeline itself. The commissioners allocated $50,000 at last week's meeting for two projects, one of which is fixing the pipe at the Glendale Firemen's Club on Carothers Avenue, where the drainage gushes into Chartiers Creek.
“The cost of the repair would be horrific if it blew that line out going down through Glendale on Front Street and down behind the railroad tracks,” Wells said. “It could be very expensive.”
Lubin said the pipe by the firemen's club already needed to be replaced because it was in cracked condition, and the board likely will have to address the line at some point -- but not because of the mine drainage.
“They're old pipes, no different than a lot of old pipes in our area that do need attention,” he said.
The board authorized township engineer Larry Lennon to investigate the site with Lubin, which Lennon said should happen within the next couple of weeks.
“I have to get up there and walk that hillside and see what I can see,” Lennon said. “And then we'll go from there.”
Wells said he'd like to see if the township could find a way to change the course of water again, but Lubin said that could cause more problems than it solves.
“We don't know if it's possible, but the question becomes liability,” Lubin said. “The mines aren't ours, the water isn't ours. ... The water still goes to Chartiers Creek, which is what it did before. And the Bureau of (Abandoned) Mine Reclamation did not feel that this was anything different than they've seen in years, that these things happen.”
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