45th Anniversary Of Project Scarlift And Mine Reclamation In Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania has been a leader in improving the quality of its environment after many years of mismanagement. Forty-five years ago this month, Pennsylvania passed the Land and Water Conservation and Reclamation Act, the first act to address abandoned mine reclamation.
On May 16, 1967, Pennsylvania voters approved a $500 million environmental bond issue. A portion of this program was to be expended for the elimination of stream pollution from abandoned coal operations, air pollution from burning coal refuse banks, alleviation of subsidence from abandoned mining operations and elimination of underground mine fires.
On January 19, 1968, the Legislature enacted "The Land and Water Conservation and Reclamation Act" (1968 P.L.996, No.443).
The abandoned mine reclamation portion of the Act, known as “Project 500”, “Operation Scarlift”, or "The Bond Issue Program", was administered by the Department of Environmental Resources.
The act was amended several times, and $120 million of the bond issue was allocated for the abatement of stream pollution from abandoned mine drainage (AMD); $20 million for the abatement of air pollution from burning refuse banks; and $40 million for the control of underground mine fires, and $20 million for the control of surface subsidence over abandoned mines.
Utilizing Operation Scarlift bond funding, between 1968 and 1981 the Department spent $78,000,000 to complete 500 stream pollution abatement projects, and an additional $64,000,000 to extinguish 76 underground mine fires, stabilize 156 areas subjected to mine subsidence, and prevent air pollution at 28 burning refuse banks.
A central component of Operation Scarlift was identification and monitoring of acid mine drainage (AMD) discharges from abandoned deep mines throughout Pennsylvania. Data on flow and chemical composition of mine discharges were compiled and used to assess the magnitude of the AMD problem, and to estimate the costs for collecting and treating AMD discharges.
Numerous mine drainage watershed studies were produced by consultants between 1968 and 1982, and many of these remain the best descriptions and outlines of the AMD problems in the watersheds.
For examples of the information developed by Scarlift, visit the Western Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation Project Scarlift webpage.
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