Les­son in min­ing

Stu­dents learn en­vi­ron­men­tal stew­ard­ship, tie-dye shirts with wa­ter colored by chem­i­cals re­moved from acid mine drainage

The Hazleton Standard-Speaker - - FRONT PAGE - By JIM DINO Staff Writer jdino@stan­dard­speaker.com

High school stu­dents learn about re­cy­cling and the en­vi­ron­ment.

Just “a frac­tion” of acid mine drainage wa­ter is be­ing cleaned up in Penn­syl­va­nia, ex­perts told high school stu­dents Fri­day.

About a dozen stu­dents from Shawn Dar­raugh’s em­ploy­a­bil­ity skills class at Ha­zle­ton Area High School heard ex­perts tell them about what acid mine drainage (AMD) is, where it comes from and the haz­ards it poses to peo­ple

he ex­perts, from the Friends of the Nescopeck, the Eastern Penn­syl­va­nia Coali­tion for Aban­doned Mine Recla­ma­tion (EPCAMR) and the Schuylkill Head­wa­ters As­so­ci­a­tion spent the morn­ing talk­ing about AMD in a sem­i­nar spon­sored by the Greater Ha­zle­ton Area Civic Part­ner­ship at the Greater Ha­zle­ton Cham­ber of Com­merce.

The sem­i­nar was held to cel­e­brate Martin Luther King Jr. Na­tional Day of Ser­vice on Mon­day by teach­ing stu­dents how to prac­tice en­vi­ron­men­tal stew­ard­ship.

Robert Hughes, EPCAMR’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, said there is $15 bil­lion in AMD to be treated in Penn­syl­va­nia. While there are about 300 treat­ment sys­tems in oper­a­tion in the state, they rep­re­sent just a small por­tion of the AMD that needs to be treated, Hughes said.

Tim Fer­ence and Gary Le­an­der, mem­bers of the Friends of Nescopeck, said the Susque­hanna River — which emp­ties into the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay — is pol­luted. The big­gest source of pol­lu­tion to the Susque­hanna is the Jeddo Tun­nel.

Ac­cord­ing to the Friends of the Nescopeck web­site, the Jeddo Tun­nel is a se­ries of five in­ter­con­nected tun­nels built by mine op­er­a­tors be­tween 1891 and 1934 which drain mine pools in a 32-square-mile area. The tun­nel sys­tem drains be­tween 40,000 and 100,000 gal­lons of wa­ter per minute.

The Jeddo Tun­nel emp­ties into the Nescopeck Creek, which even­tu­ally emp­ties into the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay, Fer­ence said.

“The good news is that the Ch­e­sa­peake is cleaner now than it has been in sev­eral years,” Fer­ence said.

The wa­ter com­ing out of the Jeddo Tun­nel — and out of other aban­doned min­ing ar­eas — is acidic, be­cause there is iron and alu­minum in the wa­ter, Hughes said. The acid­ity kills any aquatic life.

Nate Hafer, a Vol­un­teer In Ser­vice to Amer­ica (VISTA) vol­un­teer work­ing with the Schuylkill Head­wa­ter group, said pyrite, which con­tains iron and sul­fur, dis­solves min­er­als and causes wa­ter to turn red, or­ange or yel­low, or what min­ers used to call “yel­low boy.”

Mine work­ings in North­east­ern Penn­syl­va­nia are ex­ten­sive, Hafer said. At its height in 1917, 156,000 min­ers pro­duced 100 mil­lion tons of an­thracite coal from 776 mines, com­pared to 4.8 mil­lion tons pro­duced in the re­gion in 2012.

There are 160 aban­doned mine sites in Schuylkill County alone, Hafer said. Schuylkill Head­wa­ters over­sees six treat­ment sys­tems, in­clud­ing the Sil­ver Creek sys­tem in New Philadel­phia. That sys­tem treats about 12,000 gal­lons of wa­ter per minute.

EPCAMR har­vests the iron ox­ide from the wa­ter where it can and tries to find a use for it.

For in­stance, the metal can be ex­tracted and turned into a pig­ment that is used for ceramic glazes and other prod­ucts.

Fri­day, stu­dents tie-dyed T-shirts from the pig­ment. EPCAMR shreds its of­fice pa­per and adds the pig­ment to make Christ­mas or­na­ments, Hughes said.

Stu­dents also heard pre­sen­ta­tions from rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Nescopeck State Park and Eck­ley Min­ers Vil­lage and Mu­seum.

ELLEN F. O’CON­NELL/Staff Pho­tog­ra­pher

Robert Hughes, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Eastern Penn­syl­va­nia Coali­tion for Aban­doned Mine Recla­ma­tion, talks about acid mine wa­ter drainage from aban­doned area mines to stu­dents in the em­ploy­a­bil­ity skills class at Ha­zle­ton Area High School dur­ing a sem­i­nar hosted by Greater Ha­zle­ton Area Civic Part­ner­ship. The event was held Fri­day at the Greater Ha­zle­ton Cham­ber of Com­merce.

Robert Hughes dips a shirt into a bucket of wa­ter colored with re­cy­cled iron ox­ide that was re­claimed from acid mine wa­ter drainage from aban­doned area mines.

Sopho­mores Kan­dase But­ler, left, and Des­tiny Scalise pre­pare T-shirts for tie-dy­ing us­ing re­cy­cled iron ox­ide from drainage wa­ter from aban­doned mines.

Fresh­man An­thony Smith uses rocks, mar­bles and rub­ber bands to ready his shirt for a col­or­ful dip in wa­ter colored with iron ox­ide from mine wa­ter.

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