Abandoned Mine Problem Areas
At one point in Fayette County's history, annual coal production surpassed 30 million tons and the number of citizens employed in coal mining totaled over 25,000. Today's production and employment numbers shy in comparison. However, the coal legacy has left behind a number of abandoned mine problem areas. These areas have a significant impact on the future development within Fayette County.
Federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act
Prior to 1977 when Congress passed the Federal Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, the regulation of mining was lax. Past under-regulated mining has left:
- Acid Mine Drainage (AMD)
- Clogged Stream Channels
- Coal Refuse and Spoil Piles
- Dilapidated Buildings
- Open Pits
- Open Shafts
- Underground Fires
- Undermined Areas With Subsidence Potential
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP)
As of December 1997, 248 problem areas in Fayette County had been identified by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP), Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamations Inventory under the Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) program. The Bureau administers the AML Program in Pennsylvania. Fayette County ranks 10th in the total number of abandoned mine problem areas in Pennsylvania. Clearfield County ranks 1st with 617 areas.
Of the 248 abandoned mine problem areas in the County, 48 areas totaling 855 acres have been reclaimed at a cost of $13.1 million dollars. PADEP selects AML reclamation projects for funding based on three major priorities. They include:
- Emergencies - an emergency is a situation that occurs suddenly, is life threatening and demands immediate attention. Typical emergencies include subsidence, methane gas leaks, and recently ignited mines refuse fires.
- Priority 1 - Protection of public health, safety and general public welfare and property from extreme danger of adverse effects of coal mining practices. Extreme danger is defined as a condition that could be expected to cause substantial physical harm to persons, property, or the environment, and to which persons or improvements on the property are exposed.
- Priority 2 - Protection of public health, safety and general public welfare and property from adverse effects of coal mining practices.