DEP to expand coal refuse area

PORTAGE — Plans to expand a coal refuse area near Shoemaker Circle were on display Tuesday in the Portage Township Municipal Building.

State Department of Environmental Protection officials organized an informal conference allowing members of the public to ask questions about the proposed expansion southeast of an existing facility.

Maps depicted the expansion of Rosebud Mining Co.’s refuse site to add 178.6 acres to the existing Refuse Area No. 1.

That expansion, according to displayed plans, would allow for 5.2 million cubic yards of refuse to be stored at the site. The proposal covers a larger area than the existing refuse site.

The expansion is being sought as refuse generated by Rosebud Mining — based in Kittanning — will soon exceed the capacity of Refuse Area No. 1, DEP District Mining Manager Joel Koricich said.

“They are just running out of volume,” he said.

The refuse area is adjacent to a processing plant, which separates usable coal from other useless substances, Koricich said. That useless material is categorized as coal refuse, he said.

Coal refuse areas are lined with a material to contain their contents in a specific area, Koricich said.

“It’s a permanent place, in that it’s similar to a municipal waste landfill,” he said.

Treated runoff from the facility will be discharged into a tributary of Spring Run, according to a public notice.

Tuesday’s informal conference was requested by at least one community member, Koricich said. About a half hour after the conference’s 1 p.m. start, only a few people were in attendance — most of them from local news organizations.

Prior to the conference, a township secretary said residents who live in the Shoemaker Circle area had concerns that the project could affect their quality of life.

Rosebud Mining has taken those concerns into account, choosing to move the proposed expansion away from the Shoemaker area, Koricich said.

“The original plans were very much up against that … within 300 feet of the nearest home,” Koricich said.

In the past, a number of mining companies looked at expansion in the area, with previous plans expanding in several different directions from the existing site, DEP Permit Reviewer Craig Burda said.

“There’s been a bunch of gyrating before it ended up where it’s at,” Burda said.

It likely will be several months before permits for the current proposed expansion are issued, DEP Environmental Group Manager Troy Williams said.