While I was in a local post office, I noticed an interesting flyer. As I read the notice, I was awakened to some interesting facts. This spurred me to do some research as to what was happening in our area. The notice reads as follows:
EMERALD MINE SLURRY POND MAIN VALLEY (EASTERN) DAM AT THE NO. 2 COAL REFUSE DISPOSAL FACILITY HAS BEEN CLASSIFIED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION, DIVISION OF DAM SAFETY, AS A HIGH HAZARD DAM; THIS IS A DAM SO LOCATED AS TO ENDANGER POPULATED AREAS DOWNSTREAM BY ITS FAILURE.
Needless to say after reading this notice, I was shocked. Thus, began my investigation.
In my research, I discovered the following: The pond feeds into the South Branch of Ten Mile Creek. This would affect Waynesburg, Morrisville, Chartiers, parts of Jefferson, Braden, Burson, Clarksville, Millsboro and Fredericktown.
This rose my fear level.
The slurry pond was used by Emerald Mine as a settling pond and a water supply to wash coal. When Emerald Mine closed, the area was to be reclaimed. Both Emerald Mine and Cumberland Mine belong to Alpha Resources. With this in mind, a water line was built from Emerald Mine to the Cumberland Mine Complex. This was done to control the water level in Emerald Mine. I will come back to this water line.
From 2014-17 Alpha Resources was fined $200 million for 6,000 violations in 5 states. Of this amount, $150 million was to be used at the Cumberland Mine Complex to build a mine water treatment plant.
Recently, Cumberland Mine applied for a permit to release water directly into the Mon River. In the permit, a request was made that there be no limit to the sulfates being released by the mine into the river. If you recall the Mon River was impaired for sulfates. Just recently, the impaired rating was lifted.
My two questions were: why would the DEP grant this permit to increase sulfate levels again, and why would you need this permit if the ordered treatment plant is working properly?
These questions needed answered. I then began more research. I was surprised to find that the treatment plant at Cumberland Mine is not working according to the people at Coal Field Justice. The concept of the mine seems to be that the fine states you have to build the plant, but not operate it.
I really hope this is not true.
The failure to operate the plant can be possible or why would the mine want a permit to dump unlimited sulfates into the Mon River? At this time one must remember that over 800,000 people need the Mon River for drinking water.
With all of this in mind, let me get back to the water line from Emerald Mine to Cumberland Mine. It seems to me that this water line could be used to start draining the Emerald Mine slurry pond, thus reducing the threat of a dam failure.
As the pond is being drained, it can be reclaimed, thus shrinking the pond size and diminishing the threat even more. The water from this slurry pond can be treated by the facility at Cumberland Mine then released into the Mon River without any ill affects to the raw drinking water supplies. This problem can be addressed and the threat eased.
I would like to leave you with a prayer that I sometime use, “God grant me the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Samson and the patience of Job to deal with today’s problems.”