The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

May 27, 2008

Coal-waste road coating could prove costly

WILMORE — Summerhill Township taxpayers may have to pay for cleanup of “red dog” coal waste being used as the base of a dirt road less than a mile from Wilmore Dam.

No cost estimate was available Tuesday, but township officials said the rebuilding of McCormick Road north of Wilmore has been stopped while the situation is assessed.

Red dog is the remains of burned-out coal refuse. It gets its name from the reddish color the rock develops from exposure to high heat.

Officials are concerned that if the material, usually highly acidic, remains on the township road, it could leach polluted rainwater into streams that feed the dam.

“Red dog is not an appropriate material for road use,” said Robb Piper of the Cambria County Conservation District.

The township may have to remove all the rock dumped on the road over the past three weeks and send it to a state-approved landfill. Local officials could be held responsible for any remediation costs at the site.

“It’s going to cost the township a lot of money,” Supervisor Ed Hudak said. “This is serious stuff.”

Hudak said he was not involved in the decision to use the red dog. While it was used many years ago, it has not been considered by PennDOT an acceptable material for at least 30 years, he said Tuesday.

Supervisor Lee Bassett said it was his idea. He said he believed he had received the OK from a PennDOT employee at a recent seminar. He did not know the employee’s name.

The red rock was taken with the permission of the local bony pile owner, Bassett said.

“It was right here in Beaverdale. That’s what was so nice about it and I thought it would benefit everyone,” he said.

PennDOT does not allow use of the waste coal on state or local roads.

“We do not condone using red dog in the least,” spokeswoman Pam Kane said. “It is not on our list of materials. Any municipality must use only materials that are approved.”

The township already has $6,000 invested in putting the red dog on that three-mile road that serves about a dozen homes.

A spokesman with the state Department of Environmental Protection was unable to provide more information Tuesday.

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