The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Editorials

November 17, 2013

River project is coming up roses for region

JOHNSTOWN — Walk down by Point Stadium today and take a big, deep breath and the only thing you’re likely to inhale is crisp, cold air that  feels more like winter than late autumn.

That’s something to celebrate.

No longer is there a powerful stench rising from the Little Conemaugh River.

Look at the river and you can see the difference as well. No longer is the confluence of the Little Conemaugh and the Stonycreek marked by a blueish-green fork on one side and an orange, murky mess on the other.

These days the Little Conemaugh looks a lot more like a river than a Halloween prop.

That’s due, in large part, to the $15 million water treatment plant at the old Berwind Mine borehole in St. Michael. The plant helps to combat acid-mine drainage that had been pouring thousands of gallons of polluted water into the river every minute for decades.

Rosebud Mining of Kittanning is investing $50 million into the project according to company spokesman John Garcia.

The company wanted access to the estimated $3 billion in coal that lies deep under Maryland Mine No. 1, which closed in 1963. In order to get to it, Rosebud needed to reduce the water level of a massive mine pool through treatment.

That plan needed approval from the federal Environmental Protection Agency and, after months of negotiations, Rosebud got that approval. Now the company can access the coal and the people of Johns-town can enjoy a river reborn.

“To me, this is a miracle. It puts a smile on my face,” said Mike Kane, executive director of the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies. “The impact was immediate. It was night and day, just like turning on a switch.”

The cleaner river isn’t the only benefit. Rosebud has paved some secondary roads in the St. Michael area and provided concrete at the Berwind Wayside Festival Park.

As Jack Cummings, who lives near the old mine that led to the pollution, told reporter Kathy Mellott, “It’s been a win-win for the entire community.”

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