Grants will help Saint Vincent rehab mine drainage treatment pond
Saint Vincent College is preparing to embark on a three-year effort to rehabilitate part of a wetlands area that provides passive treatment of local acid mine drainage.
The project will address “wear and tear” at the 20-year-old, 20-acre treatment site along Beatty County Road in Unity. It will evaluate Wetland No. 1 — one of three large ponds where mine drainage is channeled, and pollutants including iron settle to the bottom, before the treated water is released into Fourmile Run, a tributary to Loyalhanna Creek.
Sludge that has built up on the bottom of the pond will be removed.
Project planners note Wetland No. 1 has struggled to handle the flow from abandoned deep mines — drainage that, before treatment, reduced aquatic diversity in the stream. High flow rates have eroded internal berms used to control movement of water through the pond, requiring transfer of water to the adjacent Wetland No. 2 for additional treatment.
The rehabilitation project will use aggregate to repair the berms, which should allow the pond to retain water for a longer time and provide an opportunity for more iron to settle to the bottom. Samples will be collected and evaluated regularly during the project.
Beth Bollinger, chemistry lab manager in Saint Vincent College’s Herbert W. Boyer School of Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Computing, will serve as the project director, while Caryl Fish, associate professor of chemistry, will assist with project evaluation. Susan Huba, executive director of the Loyalhanna Watershed Association, and Robert Cronauer, watershed specialist for the Westmoreland Conservation District, will provide guidance and technical assistance.
Hedin Environmental will handle engineering for the project.
The project received a $213,295 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection — among five Westmoreland County applicants recently approved for funding through the state Growing Greener program — and a $50,000 grant from the federal Office of Surface Mining’s Watershed Cooperative Agreement Program. The College will provide an in-kind contribution of about $3,600, through use of equipment.
Saint Vincent’s acid mine drainage treatment project benefited from previous Growing Greener funding rounds in 2005, 2008 and 2013. Completed work has included the repair of an earthen dike, installation of a chain link fence for muskrat control in Wetland No. 3, cleaning of vegetative and sediment blockage in Wetland No. 2 and repair of eroded areas and removal of sludge from the No. 2 and No. 3 ponds.
Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, [email protected] or via Twitter .