Water and Structural Damage Issues arise near Rustic Ridge Deep Mine in Donegal

MWA continues to offer support to the concerned community 

Over the past several months, residents have contacted MWA and relayed concerns about issues such as: odors, water loss from residential wells and springs, and structural damage at homes located in or near the footprint of  LCT Energy’s Rustic Ridge Deep Mine. 

Image credit: PA Department of Environmental Protection

The permit for this mine was issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection on December 23, 2016. MWA and much of the community rallied hard to challenge the development based on concerns of historical damage from mining in the region. With close monitoring, extensive research, and a hard fought appeal, MWA was able to achieve a unique settlement to help reduce potential impacts. MWA was hopeful that such an agreement would mitigate some  negative impacts of the mine, with one of the agreements being that the “rooms” in room-and-pillar mining were reduced in size to prevent subsidence. MWA’s consulting experts predicted that there would be no subsidence if rooms were kept to the size in the settlement agreement.  Unfortunately, those impacts seem to be appearing a short two years into the deep mining operation. 

“I have been fighting this mine since before it was put in the ground and now I am falling into it.”

In a recent meeting, residents living in the Rustic Ridge footprint came together to discuss the impacts they are experiencing and learned that neighbors are dealing with similar woes. Residents spoke of having observed cracked foundations, shifting homes, dried up wells, trickling springs, changes in water quality, doors that cease to close, frequent noise, strange odors, and the list goes on. As the meeting began, one outraged resident introduced herself and continued, “I have been fighting this mine since before it was put in the ground and now I am falling into it.” Such stark words bring to light just how devastating it is to have a coal mine in your neighborhood. 

An insulated water buffalo acts as an alternative water source for a homeowner who can no longer use the well water.

In at least four homes along Helein School Road, residents have noticed structural issues – the type commonly linked with subsidence – after the properties were undermined. Complaints have been filed with LCT, who is currently investigating the issues. Meanwhile, the DEP is also investigating changes in water quality in an artesian spring at a farm that borders the Rustic Ridge footprint. The spring is one of the primary sources of water for use on the farm, but the property owners recognized an issue when their horses suddenly refused to drink the water. Upon further investigation, they noticed that an orange discharge was accumulating in Champion Creek downstream of the spring overflow, which had never occurred previously. Over four months have passed since this issue started, and DEP has still not provided an explanation. Meanwhile, MWA has continued to investigate and provide support for impacted residents. 

The outflow of an artesian well into Champion Creek has turned orange.

The mining operation is currently active in locations just northwest of the four way intersection of Hellien School Road and County Line Road. While residents continue to file complaints with LCT and the DEP, several official complaints are being met with push back from mine representatives insisting that the issues have nothing to do with their operations. 

For many residents, adjusting to life during a pandemic has made filing complaints and remaining up to date on the mines operations challenging. Still, it is critical that impacted residents dealing with water loss, subsidence, and other negative impacts of mining stand up for their rights by filing complaints with DEP and LCT Energy. MWA is ready and available to support our mountain community and those who are concerned that they are being impacted by the mine. We will continue to work with experts in the industry and create a path forward for the community to hold LCT accountable and to ensure that they are adhering to the terms of the settlement agreement with an especially close eye on their plans to expand. 

Do you suspect that your home, property and/or water has been impacted? We are here to help, please contact Stacey at stacey@mtwatershed.com to further discuss resources available to you and for support on filing a complaint. 

How to file complaints for subsidence damage: 

  • Contact LCT Energy. Pete Mack (814-254-4065) or Jason McGinnis (724-787-5572) and file a complaint.
  • Contact Joe Laslo at DEP (phone: 724.769.1024, e-mail: jlaslo@pa.gov) and tell him you are filing a formal complaint against LCT Energy’s Rustic Ridge Mine for subsidence issues you are experiencing.

Process after filing complaints for subsidence: 

  • LCT will assess whether or not they believe the damage is caused by mining. If they agree that they caused the damage, they should – in theory – work with homeowners to compensate them for repairs 
  • If LCT claims that damage was not caused by mining OR if they’re not offering enough compensation to repair damage, then the homeowner needs to contact the DEP. DEP will mail a Subsidence Claim Form, and DEP will conduct an investigation and determine actual costs to repair damage. We recommend doing this to ensure that LCT is providing a fair repair estimate. You can also get your own estimate to repair costs.

How to file complaints for water loss:

  • To file a complaint with an online form, go to: http://www.depgreenport.state.pa.us/EnvironmentalComplaintForm/
  • To file a complaint over the phone, call the California District Mining Office at (724) 769-1100
  • To file a complaint via email, send to Compliance Chief William Keefer at: wikeefer@pa.gov and Mine Inspector Mark Bernat at: mbernat@pa.gov 
  • If you need emergency assistance and it is outside of business hours, you can call the 24/7 DEP emergency complaint line: 1-800-541-2050