DES MOINES — The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection will tonight accept the U.S. Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement’s 2012 national Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Award for the Dents Run Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration Project in Benezette Township, Elk County.
DEP staff members are attending the National Association of Abandoned Mine Land Programs national conference in Des Moines, Iowa. The agency’s engineers and experts will make presentations to other state programs from around the country at the conference, highlighting mine reclamation work taking place across the state.
“This award recognizes the innovative approach DEP, our partners in industry, local grass roots groups and sister government agencies used to restore water quality in Dents Run and create habitat for the state’s elk herd,” DEP Deputy Secretary for Active and Abandoned Mining John Stefanko said. “This effort restored a native trout stream and enhanced the rangeland for Pennsylvania’s growing elk herd in one of the state’s most scenic areas.”
DEP’s Director of the Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation Eric Cavazza will also accept tonight the U.S. Office of Surface Mining’s (OSM) Dave Bucknam Outstanding Instructor Award, given to a public servant who exemplifies dedication, leadership, compassion and commitment. Cavazza has served DEP in various capacities for 27 years and currently leads Pennsylvania’s reclamation efforts, including the award-winning remediation work.
The Dents Run Restoration Project, which began in 2002 and was completed in March 2012, is one of the most comprehensive reclamation programs DEP has ever undertaken. Using innovative technologies, the agency and its partners remediated dangerously steep highwalls, water impoundments, mine openings and hundreds of acres of barren, unstable, acidic mine spoil. The project created more than 320 acres of additional habitat for Pennsylvania’s growing elk herd, most of it on state game lands. It also restored nearly five miles of the lower Dents Run stream by neutralizing acid mine water, marking the first time in more than a century the stream can support aquatic life, such as native trout. Dents Run upstream of the project supports a healthy native wild trout population.
More than half a million tons of limestone were mined at the site and used to neutralize the thousands of gallons of acidic mine water that was flowing through the site from 14 different discharge points. This represents the largest use of alkaline materials to neutralize acid mine drainage in Pennsylvania history.
More than 5,000 cubic yards of waste coal were removed from the site and used as fuel at a coal-fired power plant, providing electricity to homes and businesses.
DEP’s Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation worked with the Bennett Branch Watershed Association; Pennsylvania Game Commission; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; U.S. Office of Surface Mining; Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources; Elk County Conservation District; Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation; Elk County Commissioners; Western Pennsylvania Conservancy; local mining companies P&N Coal Co. and Original Fuels; and contractors Stream Restoration Inc. of Pittsburgh, Gannett-Fleming Consultants of Clearfield County; and Berner Construction Inc. of Lancaster County.
Mining began at the site in the late 1800s and continued through the 1960s, when the site was abandoned, leaving devastating environmental degradation.
The project, which is part of broader efforts to restore the entire Bennett Branch watershed, won the federal award, beating out entries from Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Montana, New Mexico, Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia and Utah. This is the tenth year that a DEP mine reclamation project has been recognized by the U.S. Office of Surface Mining and the second year in a row that a project has won the national award.
In 2011, a reclamation project in Newport Township, Luzerne County, won. DEP worked to reclaim 36 acres of abandoned mine lands at the Newport North site and re-graded more than 3,150 feet of dangerous highwalls that were up to six stories in height. Most importantly, the reclamation filled in a hazardous water-filled pit that stood at the foot of one of the now re-graded highwalls that had claimed the lives of six people over the years who had been off-roading at the site in 4×4 vehicles.
The conference runs through Wednesday, Sept. 26.