For Immediate Release – March 30, 2022
Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Mike Braun (R-IN) introduced the Safeguarding Treatment for the Restoration of Ecosystems from Abandoned Mines (STREAM) Act with U.S. Representatives Matt Cartwright (D-PA-8) and David McKinley (R-WV-1). Acid mine drainage (AMD)—the release of highly acidic water from abandoned mines— is one of the largest sources of water pollution throughout the country and threatens the health and safety of Americans living near abandoned mine lands. This legislation would allow states and tribes to set aside a portion of the abandoned mine land funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Job Act to treat AMD specifically, reducing long-term water pollution and investing in the economic health of their communities.
“Thanks to the infrastructure law, historic coal-mining regions will receive billions to reclaim abandoned mine lands. Still, addressing acid mine drainage remains out of reach for many states, representing a significant financial burden due to the high, ongoing costs associated with operating and maintaining AMD treatment facilities. Without the certainty that funding will be available to cover these long-term costs, states will be unlikely to make the necessary investments to restore our vital waterways. This legislation will provide financial certainty for states, enabling them to clean up water pollution and in doing so, improve property values, restore fishing and recreation opportunities, create long-term jobs and support local economies that rely on a clean water supply. I will work to get this legislation passed to ensure Pennsylvania families have access to clean water—a right that is guaranteed by the Pennsylvania Constitution,” said Senator Casey.
“Indiana is one of the top coal producing states so it’s important that abandoned mine lands are reclaimed to their full potential and that safety and environmental hazards are addressed. I am introducing the STREAM Act with Sen. Casey so states can continue to build and maintain AMD treatment systems for polluted water,” said Sen. Mike Braun.
“Orange-colored acid mine drainage kills fish and other wildlife in thousands of miles of streams and rivers in Pennsylvania,” said Congressman Matt Cartwright. “The legislation Senator Casey and I are proposing will allow us to tap into billions of dollars in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to operate and maintain drainage treatment systems. The result will be recreational and economic restoration of our waterways.”
“Acid mine drainage from abandoned mines has contaminated creeks and rivers across West Virginia, and remediation can require ongoing treatment of that impaired water to ensure the long-term protection and restoration. This bill provides States with the flexibility to set aside AML funding specifically for long-term water treatment so that West Virginia can take full advantage of the funding from the hard infrastructure bill,” said Rep. McKinley.
The Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Program, the primary funding source to address AML sites, authorizes states to set aside up to 30 percent of their annual AML grant to accrue interest and cover the long-term costs of acid mine drainage treatment facilities. The infrastructure law provides an additional $11.3 billion for the AML trust fund for use by states. However, the infrastructure law does not allow the same kind of set-aside provision for AMD treatment as the AML Reclamation Program. Without this authority to set aside a portion of the additional funding, states will not be able to access the resources they need to mitigate the damage from acid mine drainage.
The STREAM Act would authorize states to set aside up to 30 percent of their annual AML grant from the infrastructure law into an account for treatment of acid mine drainage and require annual reporting on the use and amount of funds set aside for acid mine drainage abatement.
Read more about the STREAM Act here.
Stay up to date with Friends of the Cheat by reading our State of the Cheat River Watershed Trifold.
2017 was a rollercoaster year for Friends of the Cheat. Our most successful Whitewater Access campaign to date was followed by the coldest, wettest Cheat River Festival ever, with unbelievable mud and low attendance.
Two Meet the Cheat events put record numbers of paddlers on the Cheat River.
While HB 2506, WV drinking water policy changes, gave us nightmares.
Through these ups and downs, you, our incredible core of supporters, have remained steady. Your support empowers us to fight for clean water and continue our mission: to restore, preserve, and promote the outstanding natural qualities of the Cheat River watershed. Your financial donations are integral to our organization; they literally keep our boots on the ground, and our lights on.
Without your sustaining support, Friends of the Cheat could never have grown into the multifaceted, successful nonprofit it is now. Without you, many of our efforts wouldn’t get off the ground. Here’s a glimpse of what your financial contributions supported in just the last year:
FOC has great things planned for 2018! We are adopting the northernmost 28 miles of the Allegheny Trail, West Virginia’s longest foot trail, which runs 330 miles from the Mason-Dixon Line in Bruceton Mills south to the WV-VA border. FOC will be responsible for the maintenance and improvement of our portion – including 12 miles of true hiking trail along the Cheat Canyon. To do this, we will be expanding our Outreach and Education program even more by leading over 600 Adventure WV students in trail-work and community service over the coming summer! Your donations will help purchase the equipment we need to perform the work, and the staff time needed to organize and lead it.
Join FOC in our dedication to safe, healthy water by becoming a sustaining member of Friends of the Cheat. And please ask what we can do for you! We would be happy to present at your local church, your child’s classroom, your clubs and associations. A watershed includes everything within its boundaries, including the people that live and recreate there and we strive to support you too! Together, we can continue to improve this beloved water source that means so much to all of us.
Happy West Virginia Day from the Majestic Cheat River and Friends of the Cheat! As West Virginians, we know that one of the most wonderful aspects of our state is the grandeur of our rivers and forests. We rely on the health of our water sources and the agencies that protect them. FOC is proud to report that after 23 years of hard work – the Cheat River is reborn and booming!
FOC is focused on more than water monitoring; we aim to encourage the public to experience the beauty of our historic waterway for themselves, on the Cheat River Water Trail. FOC and the Cheat River Water Trail (CRWT) Committee hosted two “Meet the Cheat” paddling events in early June, both with attendance numbers doubling, nearly tripling, since 2016. Collectively, over 300 participants enjoyed the scenic beauty of the Cheat River Water Trail.
On June 3rd, 2017, National Trails Day, FOC and CRWT hosted the 2nd annual Preston County Meet the Cheat paddling event in Rowlesburg, WV. A record 83 attendees floated 3.2 miles from Riverview Lounge to the Rowlesburg Park, where the were met with a complimentary picnic catered by the Rowlesburg Park, and live music by Paul Burger. Registration fees for the first 25 participants needing boats and gear were free, thanks to a generous donation from the Preston County Parks and Recreation Commission. Kayaks and canoes were provided by Blackwater Outdoor Adventures (BOA), along with paddling gear and a free shuttle from the Rowlesburg Park to the put-in.
On June 10th, 2017, FOC and the CRWT partnered for the second year with the West Virginia Land Trust and Blackwater Outdoor Adventures to host the 5th annual Tucker County Meet the Cheat paddling event. This year – an astonishing 230 registered participants took to the Cheat River to float from the newly renovated Holly Meadows public access point to St. George, nearly 8 miles. The record set in 2016 was just over 100 paddlers. At the post paddle party at BOA, participants enjoyed donated salads from White Grass Cafe, pizza and wings from CJ’s Pizzeria, and homemade goodies by CRWT committee members Dave and Pam Ruediger and Janet Preston. Live music was provided by members of the LocalMotive, a Davis-based trio. CRWT volunteer extraordinaire Janet Preston collected prizes for a donation-based raffle from many local businesses.
FOC and the CRWT are beyond pleased with the level of public participation at both events! The Meet the Cheats are the main fundraisers for the CRWT; money raised at the events are used to maintain and improve public access points, print maps and brochures, and fund CRWT merchandise. The goal of these events are to introduce the public to the fantastic recreational value of the river in their backyard, and bring communities together in celebration of our public spaces. The Cheat River is just one of many gems in our great state – so show your pride in our home this week by visiting your favorite spot of Wild and Wonderful West Virginia!
Robert McVicker is the Chief Operator at the Kingwood Water Treatment and Filtration Plant on Route 72 downstream of the Cheat River Narrows. He has been keeping Kingwood’s drinking water looking clear and tasting clean since 2002. He recently received the Perkins-Boynton Award from the West Virginia American Water Works Association for exemplary operations in systems with more than 1,000 customers. Also, in 2011 and 2012 he received the Area Wide Optimization Award for outstanding efforts toward optimizing filter plant performance. Before pursuing a career in drinking water treatment, Robert operated and maintained nuclear power reactors on Navy submarines and power plants.
Kingwood’s water comes from the Cheat River. The Cheat always has water, even in a drought. We have a high water in-take and a low-water in-take. When the water is really low in the river – to the point where you can walk across it on rocks, we can still get water from underneath the riverbed. We don’t have a backup water supply right now, but I would like to explore putting in a well as a backup system.
First we pump the water to a distribution box where we inject chemicals to counteract the charged particles present in the water so that the particles can clump together and settle out. The solids settle in two outdoor clarifier tanks which do the majority of the work. Then the water flows through carbon filters to polish it off. Then we add some chlorine to keep it clean while it’s flowing through the water system and while we pump it to one of four holding tanks in Kingwood.
We currently only have two operators so we work on average one 12 ½ hour shift per day, and switch who works every other weekend. We produce water 12 hours every day and shut down at night. It is not easy work.
We are lucky that the AMD in those streams have about 1 mile in the Cheat before reaching the water in-takes. The pH is already back up after about 100 yards below the confluence. The volume of the Cheat is so large that even with a low alkalinity number it has sufficient alkalinity that it cleans the water before it even gets to us. The solids from the metals settle out before it gets to us. In fact, some extra solids coming into the system helps me treat the water because when more solids stick together, they become heavier and settle to the bottom of the clarifier tanks easier.
We already have a source water protection plan (SWPP). We test for pH, conductivity and temperature continually with online monitors provided by RAIN (river alert information network) of which we are a member. Now that we have to comply with SB 373, we must make some changes to the SWPP, but we will have a hard time coming up with the money and the time to do it. The point is to determine specific parameters to monitor for according to the specific point sources present upstream.
Here, we need to keep an eye out for trucks and cars that may enter the river near the Rolwesburg bridges. But if they spill a fuel, often it will float on the surface, and then we will start pumping from our underground water in-take if we need to. The main thing is to just be conscientious. We use common sense in those scenarios.
From time to time we issue a boil water advisory, but that is not due to source water contamination. It is usually due to a break in a water line, so there is a potential for contamination. It is more of a precautionary step until we repair the pipes.
Most things can be treated, but it’s hard to treat water without electricity. We have to worry most about Mother Nature – she will kick your butt!
The wastewater treatment plan is right next to us, but it is not possible for the poop to contaminate our drinking water because that effluent discharges into Morgan Run which enters the Cheat downstream of our in-takes. We have even altered the bed of the Cheat to make sure no water from Morgan Run gets near our in-takes.
I fish for trout in the Cheat, but often I don’t have the time! I work on average 11 to 13 hours a day at the plant.
It’s a good river – we have good raw materials to work with. The river is a living, dynamic system that changes regardless of the weather. That keeps it very interesting.
There is always room for improvement. This place has a lot of potential, but improvements cost money that we often don’t have. We have good facilities and equipment here – I wouldn’t have stayed here this long if we didn’t. I always do above-average work, or I don’t do it.
By: Kevin Ryan