MORGANTOWN — The Richard Mine acid mine drainage treatment plant is starting to take shape.
The Dominion Post visited the site on Tuesday for a construction update.
You can’t see much from the road: the big bridge spanning the creek, some metal sheds, some heavy equipment, a semi-truck trailer, a huge mound of dirt.
But across the bridge are two important areas of activity.
One is the manhole that will divert the AMD flow from the mine portal to clarifiers. A wooden box sits in a small pit between the foot of the hill and the channel where the polluted water flows from the mine portal into the Deckers Creek.
That box is the framework for the manhole concrete. Eric Simpson, regional engineer for the state Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Abandoned Mine Lands, said the concrete was just poured on Monday.
When the project is complete, the AMD flow into the channel will be cut off and instead diverted along the foot of the hill — parallel to the creek’s downstream flow — toward the clarifier, he said,
Closer to the clarifier building, a second manhole will be built so the pipes can be flushed quarterly to prevent plugging with iron.
The raw water then will continue flowing into the clarifier — the second current major area of activity.
The clarifier is taking shape in a giant pit. Simpson said it’s considered a single, square clarifier, but will actually be two rectangular clarifiers sitting side-by-side and separated by a wall.
In the clarifiers, the sludge will be separated from the raw water pumped into Geotubes (textile tubes where sludge can be consolidated and water removed) and stored. The clean water is then discharged into the creek. One clarifier can keep working while sludge is pumped from the other.
The sludge in the Geotubes, Simpson said, can either be hauled off-site for disposal or pumped a little further down past the clarifiers, to a spot where it can be injected into a section of the mine that dives below the road and the creek.
The clarifier is down in a pit instead of at ground level, Simpson said, so gravity will do the work of sending the water from the mine.
The pit won’t remain open, said Jennifer Selfridge, environmental resource specialist for DEP’s Office of Special Reclamation. A building will be erected over top of it, and grates will cover the pit.
Selfridge is OSM’s on-site inspector. Simpson explained that this is AML’s first such project ,while OSM has built seven already and has the expertise. OSM designed this project for AML.
Simpson said the contractor — Buckhannon-based Breckenridge Corp. — pour about 140 yards of concrete for the clarifier last week and will pour another 40 yards on Wednesday. Rebar rods poking up from the floor show where the clarifier and pit walls will go up in the next several months.
The estimated project cost is $5.65 million, from federal Department of Interior Office of Surface Mining funds derived from coal mining fees. The U.S. Natural Resource Conservation Service is DEP’s project partner.
Simpson said that delays in getting materials delivered has slowed the work, but the job is targeted for completion in September 2023.
The defunct Richard Mine is the single largest source of acid mine drainage into 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.
Selfridge commented that the great benefit of the project — awaited for decades with many obstacles along the way — is that the lower stretch of the creek will finally be clean. “It’s going to be exciting.”
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