The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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April 8, 2014

'Pretty sweet' | Weaver Run cleaned of acid-mine drainage

JOHNSTOWN — Another waterway in the Greater Johnstown region has been brought back from the brink of death.

Following on the heels of the Stonycreek River’s cleansing, tiny Weaver Run, which flows beside Windber Stadium, has been scrubbed of acid-mine drainage.

And, for the first time in 80 years, trout will be stocked in the tributary to Paint Creek, thanks, in part, to the hard work and diligence of many dedicated individuals, groups and organizations in our area.

Acid-mine drainage is our region’s ugly reminder of coal mining’s legacy. Many millions of taxpayers’ dollars, over many decades, have been spent trying to stem the often free-flowing drainage and remove the unsightly stain, stench and impurities it has deposited in area streams and rivers.

The Paint Creek Regional Watershed Association sponsored the construction of a passive treatment system near Pomroys Drive in Paint Township. The project was funded by a $306,000 Growing Greener state grant that was awarded in 2010 through the Department of Environmental Protection. The Conemaugh Valley Conservancy’s Kiski-Conemaugh Stream Team also had a hand in securing the funds.

Polluted water gushing out of the former Mine 33 will be filtered through 7 feet of limestone before it re-enters Seese Run, one of the major tributaries to Paint Creek.

“It goes in at 3.4 pH factor and comes out at 7.1, which is pretty sweet,” Rich Wargo, Paint Creek association president, told reporter Randy Griffith. A pH factor of 7, Wargo said, is considered neutral. Numbers lower that 7 are considered too acidic to support aquatic life, and numbers above 7 are considered too alkaline.

To test the treatment system, about a dozen captive trout were put into Weaver Run between API Technologies and Windber Stadium.

“We kept them there for two weeks and pulled them out and they were all fine,” Wargo said.

The test was repeated in the fall, when the water flow was lower and the acid-mine draining would be more concentrated. Again, the trout pulled through with flying colors.

To celebrate its achievement, the watershed association, in conjunction with the Windber Sportsmen Association, stocked the tributary with brook trout, adding another stream to the available list of trout-stocked waterways approved by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.

That, in turn, will help add to the recreational opportunities in the region. It also will have a positive economic impact. Another fishery means that anglers will be buying more bait and tackle locally as they try to land a limit of trout from Weaver Run.

We are extremely pleased at the success of the watershed association as we take another step forward in our battle against the negative effects of acid-mine drainage.

And we look forward to reporting the next success story of how another once lifeless waterway has been brought back to life.

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