Indiana, PA - Indiana County

Spill sends slurry into Dixon Run

by HEATHER ROTH hroth@indianagazette.net on May 15, 2013 10:50 AM

CHERRYHILL TOWNSHIP — A coal processing facility on Route 403 spilled coal slurry into Dixon Run Tuesday afternoon, turning the creek black.

John Poister, a spokesman for the southwest region of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, said the creek was so black with coal particles that he could not tell whether any fish had been killed, but that officials from DEP and the Fish and Boat Commission would be checking today.

“To the best of my knowledge, the flow into the creek has stopped,” he said this morning.

Poister said the Amfire Mining facility routinely pumps wastewater from processing the coal into an abandoned mine, and they have the appropriate permits to do so. But he said the plant pumped in more wastewater than usual, which combined with the recent rains overflowed from the mine and escaped through a bore hole into Dixon Run.

“They weren’t aware of just how much water was going into the mine,” he said.

Because Dixon Run is a fast-flowing creek, Poister said it mostly will clear itself, but that DEP officials will check its status today. The investigation into how it happened is ongoing, and no notice of violation has been sent to Amfire Mining at this point, he said.

While Poister said he wasn’t concerned enough to send out advisories to area residents, he did say it would “probably be wise to be careful” around the creek until the water runs clear and the investigation is complete.

Gary Lobaugh, a spokesman for Pennsylvania-American Water, said that they were notified of the spill because Dixon Run feeds into Twolick Creek, which fills Twolick Reservoir. He said they are continuing to monitor the situation, but that water quality has not been affected and, contrary to rumors, they have not shut down their water intake point, which is downstream from both Dixon Run and the reservoir. Twolick provides water for the Indiana area.

Officials from Amfire Mining could not be reached for comment this morning.

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