Dempsey Borehole AMD WCAP

This project was last covered in our June ‘07 Vol 9 No. 1 and tree planting was in October ‘07 Vol 9 No. 2

Here’s some history-: Many years ago extensive deep mining occurred in the Sewell coal seam beneath the Laurel Creek watershed. As the underground mine was inundated with water after the mine was closed, pressure began to build resulting in artesian flows. In the late 1970’s, the water blew out near the community of Dempsey, resulting in flooding to several homes and roadways. As a result, a borehole was drilled to alleviate the artesian pressure in the abandoned underground mine workings. Water discharged from the borehole, through an aeration pipe (the oozing orange tower) and into three collecting ponds to let the sulfates and iron to drop out before discharging into Dempsey Branch of Laurel Creek. The discharge system greatly deteriorated through time and the borehole worsened to the point that water was discharging straight from the borehole to the creek. As a result, iron staining occurred in the water, killing the benthic community and affecting the health of Dempsey Branch and Laurel Creek, as well as flooding in the nearby roads and yards.

PAN was contacted by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation & Enforcement (OSMRE) to involve us in the procurement of funds through the OSMRE’s Watershed Cooperative Agreement Program (WCAP) for the project. The WCAP grant was awarded to PAN in 2006 which enabled the Abandon Mine Lands and Reclamation Division of the DEP to use these federal funds totaling $99,797 in the spring of 2006, to reach the total funding expenses of over $214,000.

The project’s primary purpose was to reclaim and restore abandoned mine areas to protect the health, safety, and general welfare of the public and the environment. The project successfully capped the leaking borehole into the abandoned mine and filling in 2 of the 3 retaining ponds. The Dempsey Borehole tower and pond are constructed to work in unison to help remove the metals in the redirected mine waters flowing into the Laurel Creek at Dempsey Branch to hopefully acquire water quality conditions suitable for fish habitat through time. Water sampling shows that the high pH is lowering towards the neutral pH of 7. Construction began in 2006 and the grant reporting was closed this summer.

It is recognized that Laurel Creek is a beautiful winding stream in one of the state’s most popular tourist destinations. This project is intended to restore the beauty of Laurel Creek from the headwaters to its discharge into the New River Gorge. Although the iron quantities are not extremely high, discoloration of the stream was occurring. A visible improvement is noticeable, which is important because this stream discharges into the New River, a National River, and the economy of the area depends on tourism.

In addition, over 19 trees and shrubs were planted by PAN volunteers in the reclaimed area last year. The trees will improve the aquatic habitat with stream shading, cooling the water temperature and increasing detritus for habitat and foods for the fish and bugs, and it is hoped that stream improvements will result in the streams ability to support trout year round.

This reclamation at the site has restored and improved the integrity of the borehole cap, preventing future blowouts and flooding problems, as well as addressing the poor water quality discharge of the mine water.

This August, Finance officer, Lafayette Vance came to the PAN office from Pittsburgh’s Office of Surface Mining. After Mr. Vance found the grant reporting complete PAN’s obligation was terminated. Eric Autenreith kindly took Mr. Vance for lunch at the Cathedral Café and a tour of both WCAP projects, Dempsey Borehole and Summerlee AMD Treatment site. Thanks Eric!

PAN has one more year of grant reporting for the Summerlee AMD Treatment Phase 1 project.

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