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: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1983. First Published August 20, 2014 1:56 PM