Trout soon will be swimming in Weaver Run alongside the Windber Stadium complex for the first time in about 80 years, thanks to a pollution treatment project near the former Berwind Mine 33.
The $200,000 passive treatment system constructed off Pomroys Drive in Paint Township was funded by a $306,000 Growing Greener state grant awarded in 2010 through the Department of Environmental Protection to Paint Creek Regional Watershed Association.
Conemaugh Valley Conservancy’s Kiski-Conemaugh Stream Team helped with the grant.
Weaver Run feeds into Seese Run, which is a major tributary to Paint Creek, watershed association Vice President Melissa Reckner said.
“I know people think Paint Creek is still terribly polluted, and it is,” Reckner said. “But we are working on it.”
The passive treatment system includes a large impoundment containing about 3,600 tons of limestone, association President Rich Wargo said.
Polluted water running out of the former Mine 33 entrance is channeled into a holding area and then allowed to flow across a concrete divider and through the limestone, which is 7 feet deep and 50 feet across. By contacting the alkaline limestone, acidic water is virtually neutralized, Wargo explained.
“It goes in at 3.4 pH factor and comes out at 7.1, which is pretty sweet,” Wargo said. “There was no alkalinity and now there is about 43 milligrams per liter, which is excellent; terrific.”
A pH factor of 7 is considered neutral.
Work was completed more than a year ago, but the watershed association and stream team wanted to be sure it was working.
“I was worried about the aluminum levels, which were still a little high,” Reckner said.
Last spring, a cage containing about a dozen trout was placed in Weaver Run between the API Technologies property and Windber Stadium parking area.
“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 flows are lower, so any remaining pollution is concentrated, he said. Again, the fish survived and remained healthy.
To celebrate the success, the watershed association will stock the stream with brook trout next week in preparation for the April 12 opening of trout season. The stocking will be held April 11, in cooperation with the Windber Sportsmen Association and its Ogletown hatchery.
Releasing dozens of trout in the creek section near the stadium will allow opening-day anglers convenient access from the stadium parking areas, Wargo said.
The sponsors hope it will encourage young people to try their luck with trout fishing for the first time. Stocking will be repeated each week through May 31.
Several smaller projects are planned this year to clean other discharge seeps with the remaining grant money, Wargo said.
Randy Griffith is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/photogriffer57.
To take part
The Paint Creek Regional Watershed Association meets at 5:15 p.m. on the fourth Monday of each month in the Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Rummel. New members are welcome. More information is available by contacting Rich Wargo at 525-0844 or Melissa Reckner at 444-2669.