Comments of Beverly Braverman on the Proposed Rustic Ridge Deep Mine

Comments Regarding the Proposed LCT Rustic Ridge Mine No. 1

Submitted by Beverly Braverman on behalf of the Mountain Watershed Association

The saying “the more things change, the more they stay the same” seems most applicable to this proposed deep mine and department review.  During the pre-application process, three correction letters were sent out to the permittee by the Department.  I came across a Memo dated 10-21-94 from the Rand Am review.  It was from Gregg E. Robertson to everyone in the deep mine permitting office.  It stated:  “Bill—why did we send four (!) correction letters?  Under our permitting process policy we are to issue only two review or “correction” letters: a revision letter and a predenial letter.”  Has the permitting process policy changed?  There have been three correction letters sent to LCT already.  Copy of the memo provided.  Much of this proposed permit area was denied by DEP, a decision that was upheld by the Environmental Hearing Board.  This decision was based on the potential for downdip discharges.  The LCT application piezometric well data and the Amerikohl proposed White Mine piezometric data (submitted) show the same exact potential for discharges downdip between Jones Mills and Maple Grove that were identified during the Rand Am application review and validated by the Environmental Hearing Board’s ruling that the Rand Am permit was correctly denied.

It should be noted that John D. Kernic, hydrogeologist for the Department for the Rand Am case, which shares a significant portion of the footprint of the proposed Rustic Ridge Mine No. 1 stated in a letter that “The water levels within the piezometers indicate that groundwater movement is primarily controlled by lithology, stratigraphy and regional geologic structure with some influence from topography.  Water levels in piezometer PZ-4 indicate that Indian Creek, which is located in the trough of the Ligonier Syncline, is the discharge area of the Middle Kittanning Coal aquifer.”  He further states that Piezometer PZ-4 was installed between the abandoned Melcroft No. 3 deep mine and Indian Creek approximately 700 feet east of the Melcroft No. 3 deep mine workings. 

Water quality . . . shows high levels of iron and sulfate, indicating that 700 ft. of inplace coal is insufficient to prevent the downgradient migration of minepool water.  . . .seeps high in iron and sulfate have been observed entering Indian Creek approximately 1200 ft. downgradient of the Melcroft No. 3 mine workings. This indicates that coal barriers around the proposed Rand Am No. 4 mine working would have to be considerably larger than 1200 feet in order to be effective.”  He further states in his fifth round review many of the same deficiencies as exist in the LCT permit application, including but not limited to invalid water quality data of private water supplies; lack of sufficient data to demonstrate that post-mining discharges will not occur upon closure of the mine; some of the past mining in the area is located incorrectly on the maps or not at all and some of these mines have discharges that were not identified; and all discharges that have developed at past mine sites are of poor quality.  One cannot ignore this water quality information by dubbing the coal seam by a different name.

The high volume of water to be treated form this LCT mine will put Champion Creek into a near flood stage during the dry months and into a catastrophic flood stage when there are natural heavy rain events.  This will seriously erode the stream banks, create high levels of turbidity, devastate the stream biota, and flood private property and structures possibly all the way to Melcroft.  The treated water will also be high in Total Dissolved Solids, above current EPA limits.

The lack of adequate mine barrier thickness will cause the LCT mine pool to break into the Melcroft No. 3 mine pool and endanger the homes in the Village of Melcroft.  It will also destroy the more than one million dollar BAMR/MWA treatment facility at Melcroft. During mining the lack of barrier thickness will result in the breaching of the Melcroft No.3 mine pool.  This will result in flooding lower portions of the LCT mine operation and pose a danger to miners working in this easternmost, more downdip area of the mine.  The LCT permit is full of mistakes and inadequate info, and the most egregious of these is that since its initial submittal to DEP and after three formal correction letters neither

DEP nor LCT have noticed that the coal to be mined is misnamed as the Lower Kittanning.  The PA Geologic Survey, Rand AM and Amerikohl in their previous deep mine applications, the EHB in its permit denial ruling, and about 10 local surface permits issued by DEP in the past 20 years have correctly identified this coal seam as the Middle Kittanning coal.  This misnaming appears in the LCT application in almost every modules and on its maps and drill logs.  This is more than a minor revision to a permit application.  DEP only issues permits for specific and accurately named coal seams, or minerals in the case of noncoal permits.