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DEP tries to reassure anglers about Deer Creek

| Friday, April 5, 2013, 12:24 a.m.
Jason Bridge | Valley News Dis
Iron-rich water from an underground mine pours from a drain pipe and into Deer Creek in Harmar on Thursday, April 4, 2013.
Jason Bridge | Valley News Dis
Two drainage pipes release iron-rich water into Deer Creek in Harmar on Thursday, April 4, 2013.
Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch
One of two drainage pipes installed to drain iron-rich water from an underground mine into Deer Creek in Harmar on Thursday, April 4, 2013.

The orange, iron-containing mine discharge that's draining into Deer Creek near Rich Hill Road in Harmar should not hurt the stocked trout stream, the state Department of Environmental Protection insists.

The water draining from two 8- to 10-inch pipes is part of a state abandoned mine reclamation project, said John Poister, spokesman for the department's Southwest Region.

“While the pH of the discharge is neutral and the iron content is relatively low … we will be monitoring it closely during this discharge,” he said. “This creek is already impaired because of other mine discharges.

“The discharge shouldn't cause more harm to the creek.”

Poister said the department's Bureau of Mining is in the process of lowering the mine pool in the abandoned Indiana Mine, which runs under Redland Brick.

If left unattended, mine pools can cause serious environmental problems, he said.

“The mine has been discharging at several locations within the brick company property and other discharges into the creek,” Poister said. “Our operation is designed to consolidate those discharges to the one location.”

Fisherman Luke Austin, 22, of Harmar recently posted video of the discharge on YouTube. He said he shot the footage on Monday while scouting for fishing spots prior to the April 13 start of trout season.

He fishes in the area every year and said the change in the scenery there is dramatic.

‘Like a bomb went off'

“It's like a bomb went off,” he said. “I understand what they're doing there, but don't they care what it looks like?”

Austin said his first thought was that the discharge was from Marcellus shale gas well drilling in the area, but Poister said that's not the case.

The equipment seen in the video is a lime hopper, which is used to treat acid mine drainage.

The discharge began sometime after the Fish & Boat Commission stocked the creek on March 1, said Don Stanko, vice president of the Tri-County Trout Club, which assists with the stocking.

“The two guys stocking in that area would have commented on it had they seen it,” he said.

The commission stocks the stream beginning near the former J.C. Penney catalog center off Route 910, not far from the discharge site.

A Fish & Boat Commission wildlife conservation officer plans to test the pH in the area, said Sgt. Larry Furlong, assistant regional supervisor of the Fish & Boat Commission Southwest Region.

“My officer went down (Thursday) and he walked the stream and found it, but he couldn't get to it to take a sample to see how it's affecting the water,” he said.

The officer will return later to take the sample.

The conservation officer tested the water near two other discharge sites and found that the levels should not negatively impact fish, Furlong said.

“It's going to look bad, but it's not going to affect anything,” he said, although he planned to consult with the commission's regional biologist.

As part of the mine reclamation project, the DEP hopes to install a passive treatment system that will ensure that the discharge into the creek is not acidic, Poister said.

Jodi Weigand is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4702 or jweigand@tribweb.com.

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