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St. Vincent College symposium to explore abandoned mine drainage projects

| Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review
A leaf in Monastery Run near St. Vincent College. The college will host an educational symposium marking the 20th anniversary of the Monastery Run Improvement Project.

St. Vincent College will host an educational symposium marking the 20th anniversary of the Monastery Run Improvement Project on Friday.

The symposium, which will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Luparello Lecture Hall of the Sis and Herman Dupré Science Pavilion, is free and open to the public, but advance reservations are requested.

Site tours of abandoned mine drainage projects — including Monastery Run Improvement Project wetlands and sludge basin, the St. Vincent Gristmill and the Loyalhanna Watershed Association's upper Latrobe abandoned mine drainage treatment system — will be offered, and four experts will speak about the project:

• Cynthia Walter, professor of biology at St. Vincent, will discuss whether the project restored local streams.

• Bob Hedin of Hedin Environmental will speak about the treatment of contaminated deep mine discharges since the Monastery Run project.

• Susan Huba, executive director of the Loyalhanna Watershed Association, will offer an abandoned mine drainage update.

• Scott Roberts, retired deputy secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection, will offer reflections on the Monastery Run project and discuss watershed restoration.

St. Vincent's president, Brother Norman Hipps, will speak during the symposium.

The symposium is being coordinated by Caryl L. Fish, associate professor of chemistry at St. Vincent, and Beth Bollinger, assistant director of environmental education at the Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve at St. Vincent.

“It has been 20 years since the project began and we held our first symposium,” Fish said.

“We began with a goal of exploring the technical, financial and operational feasibility of constructing artificial wetlands and other passive treatments to reduce the problem of abandoned mine drainage contaminating local waterways. The overall goal was to restore the water quality of the Loyalhanna Creek, which flows through downtown Latrobe.”

“There are three facets to the project's accomplishments,” Fish added. “We have a cleaner Loyalhanna Creek and the surrounding watershed; we have accomplished a lot in terms of education about mine drainage, with students now majoring in environmental science with a full curriculum; and because we were one of the first programs to develop this passive treatment wetlands, others have been inspired to build wetlands throughout western Pennsylvania. We are still doing mine drainage treatment and education, so this symposium will be an opportunity to bring everyone together to celebrate and evaluate what has been accomplished.”