By Vicki Rock Daily American
Lamberts Run has been polluted by acid mine drainage from underground mines that were abandoned prior to World War II.
About 20 years ago, the Somerset County Conservancy became interested in cleaning up Lamberts Run because it flows into the Stonycreek River, a trout fishery. PBS Coals constructed a passive treatment system. Then, on September 11, 2001, Flight 93 crashed. The passive treatment system was within the fenced-in area that was the secured crash site.
Joseph Pizarchik, director of the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, which is part of the Department of the Interior, said because work couldn’t be done within the secured area, the coal company went about a mile away to pump, creating a cone of depression that lowered the water table enough to stop the discharge. Over the years a plan was developed to continue to treat the water.
Pizarchik was at the memorial on Tuesday to announce a $312,000 grant from his office to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to construct a settling bed to filter iron and manganese from the pumped well discharge. The money comes from civil penalties assessed against mining companies. The resulting treated water will be used as gray water for operation of the Flight 93 National Memorial. This project must still go through the permit process.
“We are happy to be able to work together on this project,” Pizarchik said.
Malcolm Crittenden, watershed manager with the state Department of Environmental Protection, said Lamberts Run is polluted by discharge from three main sources:
* The Heinemeyer Deep Mine Discharge, a net alkaline mine discharge that dumps iron-laden water into the headwaters of Lamberts Run within the memorial property. A Department of Environmental Protection grant of $361,000 was used and construction of a treatment system was completed in September;
* A mine seep that has been diverted into a passive treatment system managed by the Somerset County Conservancy that was constructed on the western side of the headwaters. A Growing Greener state grant of $86,000 to the Somerset Conservation District was used for this project;
* A mine seep with high levels of iron that flows into a wetland on the west side of Shanksville Road that discharges into the lower end of Lamberts Run. This iron seep coats the stream substrate with brightly colored orange iron sludge and discolors the waterfall near the mouth of Lamberts Run. Options are being discussed for this site.
Greg Shustrick, Somerset Conservation District watershed specialist, said that by building the best technologically advanced wetlands, the water will contain less than one part per million of iron at the end of the system.
“Just remember, all these efforts take countless hours by professionals and numerous volunteers,” said Len Lichvar, manager of the Somerset Conservation District.
National Park Service Assistant Superintendent Keith Newlin said the project is only part of the National Park Service’s commitment to act as responsible environmental stewards of the memorial. In addition to treating discharge, the Park Service is working to conserve on-site wetlands, plant thousands of trees as a reforestation, remove exotic and invasive plant species, and restore native wildlife habitats. Last spring volunteers planted 20 acres of seedlings. A second volunteer planting of 23 acres is planned for next spring.
“There have been studies — if you want to keep pollutants out of a stream, plant a forest,” Pizarchik said.