Mine fire near airport will be extinguished

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The state Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion on Wed­nes­day an­nounced plans to ex­tin­guish a fire burn­ing for sev­eral years in a coal waste pile in Find­lay, just 1,000 feet from a run­way at Pitts­burgh In­ter­na­tional Air­port.

The DEP awarded a $1.4 mil­lion con­tract to Earth­mov­ers Un­lim­ited of Kyler­town, Clearfield County. Work is sched­uled to be­gin in Sep­tem­ber and take a year to com­plete.

The 10-acre coal waste pile was left by an un­named deep mine that op­er­ated from 1906 through 1939, when it was aban­doned, said John Pois­ter, a DEP spokes­man. To ex­tin­guish the fire, which is burn­ing un­der the pile and oc­ca­sion­ally sends plumes of smoke into the air, the con­trac­tor will dig out the fire and use sev­eral mil­lion gal­lons of wa­ter and 200 gal­lons of fire­fighting foam.

DEP’s news re­lease said the smoke threat­ens vis­i­bil­ity for pi­lots, poses a threat to a nearby ra­dar fa­cil­ity and puts at risk an un­der­ground gas pipe­line in the area. The site is bounded on three sides by U.S. Route 30, state Route 576 and In­ter­state 376.

“It’s not a cur­tain of smoke or a rag­ing fire, but our big­gest con­cern is that it con­tin­ues to smol­der and then jumps to a larger coal waste pile next to it,” Mr. Pois­ter said.

About 429,000 cu­bic yards of coal waste will be ex­ca­vated and used to back­fill steep cliffs left from the min­ing op­er­a­tion. The site will be graded and planted to pre­vent ero­sion, and a gravel road­way through the site will be built, the DEP news re­lease said.

Mr. Pois­ter said the smaller coal waste pile is sep­a­rated from the big­ger one by a trench dug two years ago to keep the fire from spread­ing. He said the smaller coal waste pile is about a mile from where Con­sol Energy plans to build one of its Mar­cel­lus Shale gas well pads.

Money for the proj­ect will come from the Aban­doned Mine Rec­la­ma­tion Trust Fund, which is sub­si­dized by fees paid by coal com­pa­nies on each ton of coal they mine in the state.

Don Hopey: dhopey@post-ga­zette.com or 412-263-1983. First Published August 20, 2014 1:56 PM

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