I have been burning the candles at both ends lately, but I wanted to let readers know about a project that I have invested an incredible amount of time and energy into. I have generated $173,000 in grant monies and other matches to fund the Summerlee Bioremediation Project. The picture below is an aerial shot of the 72 acre complex known as the Summerlee Gob Pile, and for now I will showcase a little of Summerlee's history.
One of the primary tributaries in the headwaters of Wolf Creek originates at the base of a large coal refuse pile. Coal refuse was hauled and dumped at the Summerlee refuse pile until the late 1970’s. In 1978, when New River Company/Mountain Laurel Resources abandoned the site, approximately 78 acres of land were covered with coal refuse. Although it is unclear when the adverse impacts on the water quality of Wolf Creek were first documented (sometime in the late 1970’s), it is clear that the water quality of Wolf Creek has been degraded over time, primarily due to the acid mine drainage (AMD) from past mining practices at its headwaters. In 1980, New River Company sold the property and “any and all liability” to Mine Management, Inc. for future reprocessing of the refuse pile. Mine Management Inc. (MMI) failed to obtain water pollution permits, did not treat the AMD, and as a result, the owner was cited under the Clean Water Act (and served two years in federal prison for polluting Wolf Creek). In addition, beginning in 1984, and again in 1988, 1991, and 1993, the State and Town of Fayetteville filed suit to compel MMI to abate the pollution emanating from the refuse pile. While the legal battles were on going, the West Virginia Abandoned Mine Land program conducted land reclamation activities on the site. Land reclamation was completed in 1996 and involved refuse re-grading, placement of soil over the refuse material and re-vegetation of the site. The work also included controlling surface drainage for the 72-acre refuse pile. The work succeeded in reducing some of the infiltration of surface water into the refuse, but did not address the treatment of the mine water. Consequently, the acid mine drainage problem continues at the site.