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Any new strip mine operations near West Ridge St. being protested to DEP

Published May 19. 2011 05:13PM

On Wednesday, Lansford borough council voted 4-3 to send a letter to state Department of Environmental Protection opposing any strip mining operations near the residential area of West Ridge Street.

Council took the action because DEP has recently transferred a 7,500-acre surface mining permit to BET Associates to renew mining operations on the former Lehigh Coal and navigation grounds spanning Tamaqua, Coaldale, Lansford, Summit Hill and Nesquehoning.

Councilman tommy Vadyak initiated the vote, saying that when mining was done near Ridge Street before, homes shook from the blasts, and he was concerned that their foundations would be damaged.

Council president Adam Webber, whose home is in that area, agreed, saying he remembers how his house shook from the blasts.

Vadyak, Webber, Rose Mary Cannon and Andrew Snyder voted in favor of the letter. Danielle Smith, Lenny Kovach and Mary Kruczek opposed. Kruczek said she didn't have enough information to approve the measure.

Initially, Kruczek, Smith and Kovach said they were not voting. However, solicitor Michael Greek advised council that it is "obligated to vote" on matters unless they represent a conflict of interest or monetary gain.

BET acquired the operations in May 2010 after LC&N declared bankruptcy in 2008. according to DEP, "BET Associates will commit $24.5 million in reclamation bonds and funds to establish a trust to treat the site's acid mine drainage in perpetuity," DEP said in a news release issued Thursday.

"Coal mining remains an active industry in Pennsylvania, but it is vital that the industry take the appropriate steps to minimize its footprint on the environment," DEP Secretary Mike Krancer said. "This particular site has been mined nearly continuously since the 1800s. The private sector has demonstrated leadership with this site, which will now be mined and reclaimed and have its water treated at no cost to taxpayers."

An average of 7,000 gallons-per-minute of water contaminated by acid mine drainage flows through the site, which includes more than 800 acres of surface mine pits. DEP suspended LC&N's mining operations. DEP issued 24 compliance orders to the company between 2008 and 2010 for numerous water quality violations and for failing to properly reclaim the site.

As a condition of the permit, BET Associates will post bonds to cover the full cost of reclaiming the site and to treat the acid mine drainage, DEP said. The previous bonds LCN posted would have been insufficient to reclaim the site and the state would have been responsible for millions of dollars in remediation projects. The permit transfer relieves the state of the potential responsibility of reclaiming the site.

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