DEP’s Craig Burda Receives ECHO Award From Federal Office Of Surface Mining

The federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement Tuesday recognized DEP mining engineer Craig Burda with the 2017 ECHO Award.

“Due to Burda’s tireless work at the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and his understanding of the law and the engineering needed to eliminate the hazard of AMD, his efforts led to a change in how the Commonwealth permits coal refuse sites.

“Today, refuse facilities in Pennsylvania are now permitted as “zero discharge” after reclamation is completed.”

“I take great pleasure in recognizing someone who has fully embraced what the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act clearly targets,” said OSMRE Director Joe Pizarchik. “Craig’s efforts show that even someone working out of the public eye can have a terrific impact on protecting people and the environment. This is exactly why we created the ECHO Award.”

“Throughout his career, Craig Burda has continually ensured higher environmental protection standards for communities,” said DEP Acting Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “In each and every permitting decision, he’s deployed outstanding technical expertise, great integrity and fortitude, and deep skill in partnering with industry to protect the health and environment of our coal communities. He has raised the bar on coal refuse reclamation in Pennsylvania.”

“As an integral member of the Department of Environmental Protection, your knowledge and expertise has been a solid voice for change throughout the community,” Governor Tom Wolf said in a congratulatory greeting. “I commend your commitment to public policy advocacy and your unparalleled proficiency in issue management and standard setting.”

For the past twenty-one years, Craig has worked as a mining engineer for the Department of Environmental Protection. He has worked on improving the coal refuse permitting program to a point to where now the majority of refuse piles are synthetically-lined and capped like a landfill.

As a result of Craig’s efforts, coal refuse facilities are now permitted as zero discharge facilities upon reclamation.

To fully understand the difficulty of Craig’s achievement, one must understand the difficulties associated with permitting refuse piles and the environmental hazard they can pose.

Arguably, coal refuse facilities are the most difficult type of coal operation to successfully permit in Northern Appalachia. Without strong permitting, they become perpetual mine drainage generators after reclamation as well. Without proper environmental protection, a small amount of refuse water can cause severe contamination.

Craig used groundwater monitoring data to show that past methods resulted in groundwater contamination by refuse leachate. Faced with the data, operators fought to continue to use inexpensive protection measures.

Craig stood firm by the data and his beliefs to require improved materials and stricter construction practices.

While the cost to the company to employ these measures is significant, the long-term environmental protection and zero discharge after reclamation will benefit the surrounding community and, ultimately, the company.

These permitting actions set a standard, and at least ten other refuse facilities in Pennsylvania now use liners and caps because of Craig’s efforts.

Craig’s accomplishment was achieved with no change in the regulatory requirements for protecting surface and groundwater.

He evolved the program by simply failing to accept substandard practices and using monitoring data as the basis for his permitting decisions. Craig is a perfect example of what can be accomplished through leadership, determination, and belief in doing right.

The ECHO Award recognizes individuals for their contributions to support and strengthen the federal surface mining law designed to protect people and the environment from the adverse effects of coal mining.

Past Pennsylvania winners of the ECHO Award include John Dawes of the Foundation for PA Watersheds.

Related Story:

DEP To Receive $33.6 Million In Federal Mine Reclamation Funds

[Posted Jan. 3, 2017]


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