Soap Hollow Run pollution

Soap Hollow Run shows pollution from a broken acid mine drainage treatment pipe, as confirmed by the Somerset Conservation District, on Saturday, July 4, 2020.

TIRE HILL – A wild trout stream near Greenhouse Park was deluged with pollution from a broken acid mine drainage treatment pipe, according to the Somerset Conservation District.

"An underground pipe broke at the AMD Industries treatment site at Tire Hill, inundating the stream with untold gallons of sludge," Somerset County Conservation District manager Len Lichvar said.

The stream, Soap Hollow Run, is designated by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission as a Class A brown wild trout stream, which means it supports a population of wild brown trout of sufficient size and abundance for a long-term sport fishery.

"Just this past week we completed a three-year stream improvement project there, costing thousands of dollars of grant money and time, right where it all hit," Lichvar said.

Lichvar said the District is working with the company to mitigate the pollution along with the Southwest division of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

AMD President John DeFranco declined to talk about the pipe break or possible solutions. He offered a single comment Saturday.

"The site is being remediated," he said.

AMD designs, builds, and operates acid-mine drainage treatment facilities that treat coal mine water using high calcium lime and sodium hydroxide. Its technology includes passive treatment systems for lower flow facilities as well as sludge pumping systems and pump flotation devices.

For years, Soap Hollow Run's trout habitat has been enhanced by AMD's work to reduce acid mine drainage, Lichvar said.

"This was an unfortunate situation," Lichvar said. "The questions we at the conservation district are concerned with now is how can this be 'fixed' and how can it be prevented from happening again in the future."

Lichvar said he stumbled upon the pollution Thursday night while visiting Greenhouse Park. After speaking with AMD, he said he learned the company had reported the break to the DEP after it discovered the pipe break Wednesday afternoon.

Additionally, Lichvar said, he officially informed the DEP Bureau of Clean Water in Pittsburgh for their investigation.

"To my knowledge there is no more pollution being deposited," Lichvar said.

The stream enters the Stonycreek River at Greenhouse Park. Lichvar prefaced his opinion by saying he is not a biologist, but he believes the impact of the pollution would have the greatest impact on the stream and be negligible to the river.

He said he also didn't know the chemical make up of the "sludge."

"I would just call it sludge emanating from abandoned mines," he said.

Russ O'Reilly is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @RussellOReilly.


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