Home > Newsroom > News Releases > Statement By Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) Executive Director Carol R. Collier At The Mary D Recreation And Schuylkill River Improvement Projects Groundbreaking Ceremony, Bell Colliery Site, Mary D, Schuylkill County, PA
Statement By Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) Executive Director Carol R. Collier At The Mary D Recreation And Schuylkill River Improvement Projects Groundbreaking Ceremony, Bell Colliery Site, Mary D, Schuylkill County, PA

For Immediate Release

November 29, 2006

(MARY D, Pa.)  -- Good morning. I welcome all of you and thank you for attending this important groundbreaking event for the Mary D Recreation Facility and local mine drainage treatment sites. This event has been a little over a year in the making, and I thank all partners for their support and dedication to this project, which is a prime example of just what can be accomplished through the cooperation of state and local governments, businesses, industry, and community organizations.

This project not only benefits the community of Mary D, but also will improve the water quality of the headwaters to the Schuylkill River. Acid/Abandoned Mine Drainage (AMD) is the largest source of stream impairment in the Upper Schuylkill Watershed. This project demonstrates the commitment and initiative of all partners to reduce the amount of pollutants AMD contributes to the Schuylkill's headwaters, reclaim abandoned mine lands, and enhance the quality of life for area residents. The Schuylkill River and its tributaries provide drinking water to over 1.5 million Pennsylvanians. 

The Delaware River Basin Commission's involvement in this project began with an Exelon Corporation settlement creating a fund for water quality improvement projects in the watershed draining to the Schuylkill River, the largest tributary to the Delaware River.  DRBC staff believed, and Exelon agreed, that an AMD project would be a great use of these funds, and the community of Mary D was chosen for such a project. The initial concept was to create a passive treatment system involving the use of reclaimed wetlands and limestone to increase the pH of the acidic AMD and precipitate out harmful metals, such as iron, manganese, and aluminum. The settling out of these metals thus reduces the pollutant load to the river. 

During an early visit to Mary D, it was determined that the best site for treating the AMD from the Mary D "Borehole" would be on the already existing community ballfield, which is owned by the Mary D Fire Company. In order to use this site for the treatment wetland, new recreational facilities, including a ballfield, would have to be provided to the community. DRBC reached out to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection's Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation (DEP), the non-profit Schuylkill Headwaters Association (SHA), and the community for additional funding.  All groups that were approached wanted to be involved in the project, and SHA applied for and received grant monies from the William Penn Foundation. DEP and the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) also contributed funds for the creation of the new facility and treatment wetlands. The Mary D Fire Company provided the existing ballfield to the AMD project, and the Blaschak Coal Company of Mahanoy City, Schuylkill County donated about ten acres of abandoned mine land on which to construct the town’s new recreation facility. 

The new, multi-use recreation facility, whose design was rendered by Rettew Associates, is a great improvement over the existing one, allowing for lighted, year-round enjoyment of not just baseball, but also basketball, soccer, and ice skating. It will provide excellent recreational opportunities at a location closer to the community than the existing ballfield. This $500,000 facility is a great addition to the community and will be enjoyed for years to come. 

As the project progressed, treatment sites were created or expanded, bringing the total number of sites to four, in addition to the construction of a new recreation facility. This evolving project facilitated by DRBC would not have been possible without the cooperation of multiple, dedicated partners. 

The second site in this AMD project will provide improvements to a treatment wetland already in use here at Bell Colliery, known as Bell Colliery Phase 1. Phase 1 is not currently functioning to its full potential because the pollutant metals settled out in the wetland can be flushed into the river by heavy rains. To address this shortfall, construction of Phase 2 has just started, which will add another treatment wetland for the pollutants to flush into, instead of the river, during times of heavy precipitation and will allow the site to function more efficiently. In addition to Bell Colliery Phase 2 and the treatment wetland being built on the grounds of the original ballfield, another treatment site will be created to treat the AMD from the Mary D "Overflow." Lastly, the fourth AMD treatment project that will be completed with funds from these partners involves an expansion of the existing Mackeysburg diversion system. The Mackeysburg project reflects a different strategy in combating AMD by trying to reduce the amount of runoff that comes into contact with mine wastes, thereby preventing the contamination of runoff.

The DRBC is extremely proud of this project and of the cooperation exhibited by all partners, who were willing to contribute grants, assign easements, and/or devote time to ensure that this project would benefit everyone involved. As an agency founded by an interstate-federal compact to manage the water resources of the entire Delaware River Basin, the DRBC firmly believes that we can accomplish greater things through partnering than by working individually. Tackling AMD in the Schuylkill's headwaters demonstrates the common goals of improving the river's water quality at its source, as well as enhancing the quality of life for Pennsylvanians. The completion of all five projects would not be possible had it not be for the collaboration and commitment of the following partners: the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Schuylkill County Commissioners, Schuylkill Township, DRBC, SHA, Exelon, William Penn Foundation, Blaschak Coal Company, Mary D Fire Company, Schuylkill Conservation District, Eastern Schuylkill Recreation Association, Mary D Baseball Association, Pennsylvania Land Trust Association, Stell Environmental Enterprises, and Enterprising Environmental Solutions, Inc. This is indeed a win-win situation for everyone involved. Again, I thank you all for your participation and commend everyone on this great, shared accomplishment. 

Download Project Description Flyer (pdf 2.65 MB)

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Contact: Kate O'Hara, DRBC, 609-883-9500 ext. 205, katharine.o'hara@drbc.state.nj.us

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