Cow Manure Used to Treat Mine Drainage
Mon Dec 30, 1:48 PM ET
Science - AP
By JUDY LIN, Associated Press Writer
PITTSBURGH - Rarely does anyone advertise to buy 400 tons of cow
manure, but that's what Bob Du Breucq did to get enough fertilizer for
a water treatment project at a mine in central Pennsylvania.
As vice president of Tanoma Mining Co., which ceased operating in 2000,
Du Breucq had the task of putting together a reclamation project to
make sure contaminated mine water doesn't pollute nearby waterways.
He settled on building a high-calcium settling pond with limestone and
cow manure that will reduce the acidity of water seeping out of the
mine a process that mine reclamation experts say is safe for the
environment and inexpensive.
In the past 15 years, a number of passive treatment projects have
sprouted in major mining states like Pennsylvania and West Virginia,
providing an alternative to chemical treatment plants, said West
Virginia University mine reclamation specialist Jeff Skousen. The
chemical treatment plants are known as active projects.
"It's a good thing to do because it really aids (news - web sites) soil
development and reclamation," he said.
Passive treatment systems usually made into ponds, channels or
wetlands are also friendly to the wallet. Du Breucq said it cost
Tanoma about $200,000 to build its settling pond; a chemical treatment
plant would have cost twice as much.
Besides using cow manure, Skousen said other fertilizers such as
sawdust, hay and mushroom compost can be just as effective.
Nationwide, more than 4,600 abandoned coal sites are deemed unhealthy
and unsafe by the government, said Gene Krueger, an administrator in
the federal Office of Surface Mining. The office, however, doesn't
track the number or the type of water treatment programs at mines, he
Treating acid drainage from abandoned mines is a $5 billion problem for
Pennsylvania alone, said Carl Lasher, a spokesman for the Department of
Environmental Protection. Acids and metals produced by abandoned mines
can discharge into streams, killing fish and insects, hurting plant
growth and turning water orange.
The state estimates 17,000 miles of streams remain polluted by acid
Lasher said Pennsylvania has responded by operating 20 passive
treatment systems, with eight more under construction. West Virginia
environmental officials said the state also has worked on a number of
passive treatment systems, many alongside conservation groups.
In addition, Lasher said hundreds of Pennsylvania mining companies like
Tanoma operate their own treatment systems, which can either be passive
or active, at abandoned mine sites.
Du Breucq, who recently completed Tanoma's water treatment project,
says he's pleased with the settlement pond.
"It's not a bad way to do it, particularly for the public, the streams
and the operators," he said.
On the Net:
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection:
West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection:
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