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Acid rock could be dumped at mine site

Officials have found a controversial solution to cleaning up a million tons of sulfuric acid-generating rock exposed during construction of Interstate 99 near State College in 2002: Dump it in rural Indiana County.

The acid rock will be crushed and transported from Centre County along Route 22 through Blair and Cambria counties to Route 422 in Indiana County. It will be dumped with fly ash on an existing 34-acre mine site owned by Robindale Energy Service, located in Pine Township in Heilwood.

But the proposal has generated some opposition.

“We don’t want to be dumped on,” said Bernie Smith, Indiana County commissioner. “I’ve received an overwhelming response from people who agree with me. We’ve been cleaning up from the mines and the mills, the acid mine drainage and pollution here for years. They say the acid rock is safe. It is not safe. If it is bad there, it will be bad here. I say keep it there. We don’t want it.”

Robindale Energy Services, of Armagh, Indiana County, signed a $26 million contract to haul about two-thirds of the acid rock from Centre County and haul an equal amount of fly ash from the Seward Generating Station, located on Route 711 near the Westmoreland County line. The fly ash will be mixed with the pyritic material to neutralize its acidity.

The acid rock, called pyrite and also known as “fool’s gold,” is the naturally occurring mineral iron sulfide compressed in geologic deposits.

Since the nearly 1 million tons of acid rock was unearthed during construction of I-99 at Skytop on the Bald Eagle Mountain in early 2002, officials have examined options to solve the crisis that had delayed the $800 million construction.

The option chosen will cost $40 million, according to Marla Fannin, PennDOT community relations coordinator.

“The $40 million includes $26 million to haul and treat it and $14 million for the in-place treatment for the portions that are not being moved,” Fannin said. “About two-thirds of it needs to be moved. The site selected meets site-specific criteria. It has an ash layer, a clay layer, an impermeable liner and a leachate collection system to treat the runoff.”

Robindale applied for a water quality management permit for the Pine Township site owner, RNS, a wholly owned subsidiary of Robindale Energy, Hedrick said.

PennDOT’s Engineering District in Clearfield County also has applied for a permit to transport the acid rock and fly ash, said Rick Hogg, PennDOT district executive in District 10.

It will take more than a year to transport 650,000 to 700,000 cubic square feet of pyritic material in 150 truckloads per day, five days a week, to the Pine Township site, Hogg said.

“It will be mixed with fly ash and lime,” Hogg said. “It will be a 1-to-1 ratio. For every cubic yard of pyritic rock, we’ll also haul the fly ash and some lime to mix with it on top of the bed of ash there. Fly ash can set up similar to concrete with the crushed rock. The rock will be 6 inches, maximum size.”

Indiana County residents will have a chance to speak on the proposal during a public meeting Monday.

Deputy Secretary Gary Hoffman, of the highway administration in Harrisburg, and senior management from Robindale Engery Services will address questions and concerns during the meeting to be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Pine Township Volunteer Fire Company in Heilwood.


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