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Design and Permitting of a Passive Treatment Project on Shamokin Creek: Big Mountain Discharge

Shamokin Creek

The Shamokin Creek Restoration Alliance (SCRA) in partnership with the Northumberland County Conservation District (NCCD) is proposing to design and install a passive treatment system that will abate five abandoned mine drainage (AMD) discharges, including the Big Mountain discharge, that flow to Shamokin Creek in Northumberland County, Pennsylvania.

The Big Mountain discharge, along with a number of small seeps make up a small tributary to the Shamokin Creek locally known as Buck Run. These acid mine discharges (Scarlift Sites 23-28) severely impact Shamokin Creek by adding approximately 500 lbs/day of metals and 1400 lbs/day of acidity to the Shamokin Creek. Both the SCRA and NCCD recognize the impact this tributary has and the need to address it.

An assessment of the watershed conducted by the USGS (1999-2001) lists the Big Mountain discharge 5th in terms of the amount of acid and metals it contributes to the Shamokin Creek. The discharge contributes approximately 6% of the iron, aluminum, and manganese to the watershed. As a result of the four smaller discharges being located so close together, the overall site should have most likely been higher on the assessment ranking.

The major goal of this project is to have a detailed treatment design for the abatement of the five discharges, including Big Mountain Discharge. The design plan will be used by the SCRA, Conservation District, and other interested parties to aid in their continued success of cleaning-up Shamokin Creek. Reclamation and abatement of AMD, one of the largest causes of non-point source pollution in Pennsylvania, is considered a main objective of the SCRA in their goals of watershed restoration.

Specific objectives include:

    To complete a background check of all existing data associated with the five discharges as collected by various agencies and organizations

    To establish a monitoring plan

    To install flow devices at critical locations

    To monitor the flow and chemistry at the sample locations monthly for one year

    To evaluate innovative reclamation techniques to best treat the discharges

    To complete boundary and contour surveying

    To resolve the landownership issues

    To obtain all necessary permits for Phase II of the project (construction)

    To obtain a detailed treatment design for the abatement of the five discharges

The benefits of this restoration project are important steps towards the goals of the SCRA including: a) improved water quality, b) Restoration of native fish populations, c) improved wildlife habitat d) development of a future sports fishery in Shamokin Creek, f) reduction of a significant non-point source pollution to the Susquehanna River, and g) important educational opportunities to provide local citizens information to better understand AMD and treatment systems. The positive economic impacts that are generated from these benefits translate into a better way of life for local communities and for visitors to Shamokin Creek Watershed, and the results will be enduring.