The Indian Creek watershed is approximately 125 square miles and contains over 130 known discharges from abandoned coal mines. These discharges have resulted in contamination of surface water, wells, and springs for decades. Because Indian Creek flows into the Youghiogheny River, abandoned mine drainage in our smaller area has impacted and diminished water quality throughout the Greater Youghiogheny River Watershed.
Over the past 20 years, Mountain Watershed has raised almost $9 million dollars to create mine drainage treatment systems that remove harmful pollutants and have helped to restore the water and hence, quality of life, in our region. Given the success of our existing restoration activities and the tendency for mining in this watershed to produce discharges, any current and proposed coal mining activity is a huge risk for our area.
Proposed Coal Mine Expansion
Despite significant public outcry for impacts to environmental and community health, LCT Energy has submitted a permit application to expand their operation by 1,400 acres, with future plans to expand by an additional 3,000 acres towards Bullskin, Mount Pleasant and Cook Townships. The footprint of the proposed mine expands into the Loyalhanna Watershed and would threaten the headwaters of that watershed, specifically Fourmile Run.
Mountain Watershed employs many strategies in the hopes of mitigating and preventing these impacts. One of those strategies is to educate the public on their legal rights, as well as preparing for the possibility of a direct legal challenge to LCT Energy’s proposed expansion. We plan to work with a private law firm that is one of the only in the state that regularly – and successfully – litigates against the mining and fracking industries. While we are confident in their ability to bring forward the best possible case for us, legal challenges are inevitably costly.
We have set a goal of raising $500,000 to support our legal challenge of the Rustic Ridge Deep Mine expansion in order to protect the health of our watershed and all who depend on it.
We predict that the proposed expansion could significantly dewater the headwaters of the Loyalhanna Watershed by removing water from Loyalhanna and redirecting it to the Indian Creek Watershed. Considering the size of the proposed expansion, MWA believes this would result in the headwaters of the Loyalhanna – specifically Four Mile Run – eventually going dry while Champion Creek of the Indian Creek Watershed would become chronically flooded.
Given the anticipated life of the mine, it is possible that the Four Mile Run headwaters will be reduced to a trickle and Donegal Lake will have dried up long before mining is complete.
As if that is not enough reason for concern, we believe that it is likely that mining in this area will result in acid mine discharges along the banks and within the streams of the Four Mile Run headwaters, impacting the larger Loyalhanna Watershed.
Through grassroots organizing, MWA has regularly met with concerned community members and municipalities addressing the growing issues around Rustic Ridge. Considering these concerns and the broader possibility of impacts throughout the Laurel Highlands, we are progressing with a legal appeal to prevent irreparable damage to the area’s groundwater supply, clean air, and quality of life in the greater Youghiogheny, and Loyalhanna Watersheds. Join us in the fight to Defend the Yough.