After six years of planning and development, the abandoned mine drainage treatment system at Wingfield Pines in Upper St. Clair was unveiled to the public in an event that introduced everyone who was involved and included a ceremonial “turning on” of the system. I had the opportunity to take some more artsy shots of this event.
The Allegheny Land Trust is one of my customers for design and I often photograph events as well. I design their newsletter and brochures and lately have been designing the interpretive signs for this site (they will be posted next).
Abandoned mine drainage is a huge issue in Pennsylvania as nearly the entire state has been mined for coal or other minerals in one way or another. Many streams bear the characteristic rusty color of oxidized iron indicating mine drainage flows freely into that stream from the outflow of a deep mine that’s been abandoned.
This abandoned mine at Wingfield Pines was the first of eight outflows into 12 miles of Chartiers Creek. The water flows from the mine at a rate of 2,000 gallons per minute, and until now 43 tons of iron oxide were deposited into Chartiers Creek each year from this outflow.
The Wingfield Pines remediation plan uses passive treatment methods to remove the iron from the water, and the passive methods include gravity to gently guide the water and keep it flowing and nature’s own flora and fauna in the final wetland filtering and digesting the last of the pollutants.
The drainage flows by gravity into the pipe with the water jets you see here, which are simply holes through which the water is forced by simple pressure for aeration. It then flows freely through a series of four pie-shaped settling ponds that captures the iron sediment. A wetland filters out the last of this sediment using native plants. The water begins in the classic brilliant orange but by the time it leaves the last pond it’s clear. By the time it reaches the creek it’s actually cleaner than what’s flowing.
This system is entirely unique in its design. Passive treatment systems allow the mine effluent to fill a man-made pond so that the iron and other heavy metals can settle to the bottom before flowing on, and allowed to aerate so that any chemicals are dispersed into the air. But they are usually a series of oval or rectangular ponds, one lower than the next on a gentle hillside. They are not generally very attractive and take up quite a bit of space.
In this case space was at a premium, plus the organization wanted to create a system that citizens, teachers, students and scientists would want to visit because it was attractive and not merely functional. The illustration at left is also one of the illustrations I’ve done for Allegheny Land Trust.
You can also find other recent design items for Allegheny Land Trust in “What’s New?” by choosing “Allegheny Land Trust” in the categories at right.