“Ohiopyle Restoration Project Nears Completion”
By Cliff Denholm and Margaret Dunn
Stream Restoration Inc.

August 31, 2001

(Ohiopyle, PA) - Most people in Western Pennsylvania are familiar with Ohiopyle State Park with its recreational opportunities, beautiful waterfalls, and raging rapids along the “Yough”, but very few are aware of the mine drainage problems associated with Laurel Run, a high-quality cold water fishery and tributary to Meadow Run, which enters the Youghiogheny River. 

The mine drainage is associated with an old 120-acre surface clay and coal mine, known as the Harbison Walker site.  The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has been actively treating mine drainage from this site for years with a conventional chemical system.  Stream Restoration formed a public-private partnership effort with various organizations including Amerikohl Mining, PA DEP, PA DCNR, WOPEC, and BioMost, to replace the existing treatment plant with a passive treatment system.  This team then submitted a grant to the DEP who approved funding for Phase I of the project in the fall of 1999.  With this funding and in-kind contributions, the system was amazingly placed online within five(!!!) weeks, with final work including wetland plantings completed with volunteers from Pressley Ridge School in the spring of 2000. 

The improvements in water quality were such a success at Phase I that interest soon followed to develop a second passive treatment system to treat several other discharges that existed on the site.  SRI, once again formed a public-private partnership effort and submitted a Growing Greener grant proposal for Harbison Walker Phase II. 

After funding approval, the system was placed online in the spring of 2001.  This innovative passive treatment system, which is now nearly complete, is actually 3 separate systems tied together to treat several discharges with very different chemistries.  The system contains 4 Vertical Flow Ponds (2 of which are in parallel), several Flush Ponds and Settling Ponds, a Horizontal Flow Limestone Bed, and several wetlands totaling over an acre in area.  A diversion well was also installed to treat a degraded stream flow.  Two different wetland plantings have taken place including one involving AmeriCorp volunteers, Stream Restoration, Aquascape Wetland & Environmental Services, and PA DCNR.

Annually, over 1,000,000 gallons are being treated with over 150 tons of acidity neutralized and about 30 tons of aluminum and iron removed from the site drainage.

This innovative and high profile system is expected to provide educational and research opportunities to many individuals that will hopefully lead to further innovations and developments in both passive treatment technology and the concept of public-private partnerships.
 
 

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