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DEP opens bids for bridge to access planned Richard Mine treatment plant

MORGANTOWN — A proposed Richard Mine discharge treatment plant has moved a step forward, with the Department of Environmental Protection recently opening bids to build a bridge across Deckers Creek to allow access to the mine portal and treatment site from W.Va. 7.

DEP had been using a privately-owned bridge to access the proposed treatment side, spokesman Terry Fletcher said. In order to avoid wear and tear on that bridge, DEP is building its own. It’s a DEP project but they had to go through the Division of Highways for the appropriate permit

This close-up shows iron (orange) and aluminum (white) draining into Deckers Creek.

The bridge is expected to be approximately 100 feet downstream from the outlet site, Fletcher said.

There is no construction timeline yet, he said. But DEP learned that because certain metal components need to be fabricated, the project could be delayed anywhere from six weeks to six months after it’s been bid out in order to get the steel for the bridge.

The estimated cost of the project was $1.2 million, Fletcher said. “We cannot release the winning bidder or bid as the contract has not been officially awarded at this time.”

Regarding the treatment site, Fletcher said, they anticipate plans for it sometime in November. “We are still making progress on the specifications and design, but have had to prioritize other projects.”

Project background

The bridge is expected to be built about 100 feet downstream of the mine outlet, about where this stake is sitting.

The U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service is partnering with DEP for the treatment plant project. Paving the way is a $3,375 NRCS allotment provided in 2017 — not a grant, but a type of fund administered through agreements with other government entities.

DEP expects the plant to cost somewhere from $2.5 and $3.5 million to build, Fletcher previously said.

DEP will cover operation and maintenance costs. NRCS is providing funds for everything related to construction except the land purchase. DEP bought 7 acres around the discharge site for $1.1 million to allow for construction.

DEP engineers plan to use the T&T Treatment Plant on Muddy Creek near Albright as a model for the process, although on a smaller scale. The Richard site has been nicknamed “T&T Lite.” The $7.97 million T&T facility began full operation in March 2018 and helped restore the lower 3.4 miles of Muddy Creek — a tributary of the Cheat River.

The defunct Richard Mine is the single largest source of acid mine drainage into the Deckers Creek:
200 gallons per minute. Each year, that contaminated flow puts into the creek 730,500 pounds of acidity, 140,000 pounds of iron, 59,000 pounds of aluminum and 3,200 pounds of manganese.

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