DEP, Coal Company Reach Agreement to Treat Mine Drainage Water at Flight 93 Site

HARRISBURG – Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen A. McGinty announced an agreement that could lead the federal government one step closer to building a permanent memorial on the land near Shanksville, Somerset County, where United Flight 93 crashed Sept. 11, 2001.

“This site marks a sorrowful, tragic time in our nation’s history,” said McGinty, “and we all recognize that it is deserving of a lasting monument. The agreement we’re announcing today will help move us one step closer to making the monument a reality.

Under a consent order and agreement announced today, PBS Coals Inc. will treat mine discharge water from the site that was discovered in 2003. Due to the area’s sensitive nature and status, PBS could not treat the water as it would normally. Instead, the company pumped groundwater from an adjacent mine pool to lower the water table, which stopped the discharge.

The National Park Service and families of Flight 93 victims plan to build a memorial where the plane crashed in Stoneycreek Township. However, the park service will not take possession of the land until plans move forward on a long-term treatment solution for the mine discharges.
Water pumped to the well from the mine pool now discharges into Lamberts Run, where the water is treated to remove iron. Lamberts Run is already contaminated by acid mine drainage from three abandoned mine sites.

Employing this technique required PBS to treat significantly more water than if treated at the crash site, which added to the cost, as did the requirement to treat for manganese.

The agreement states that PBS Coals will no longer be required to treat for manganese. The company also will monitor water quality at several points along Lamberts Run, including approximately four miles from the discharge where it meets the Stonycreek River and approximately 10 miles downstream at the Hooversville Public Water Supply intake.

Should DEP identify a manganese impact to Stoneycreek River or the Hooversville water supply intake, PBS Coals will be required to resume treatment for the metal.

“We do not believe manganese will degrade Lamberts Run, as there is no evidence existing manganese concentrations will impact aquatic life, or create a problem for the downstream public drinking water supply,” said McGinty. “The levels at the supply intake should be well below the level required for safe drinking water.”

The secretary noted water quality limits for manganese were established to address aesthetic issues, such as laundry staining, not because of health or environmental risks.

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, Somerset Conservancy, Stonycreek Conemaugh River Improvement Project and Somerset County Conservation District all support the conceptual plan included in the consent order and agreement.

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