Blowout Spills into the Yough River

Posted by on Aug 4, 2017 in Coal, Deep Mine, Posts, Water, Yough River | Comments Off on Blowout Spills into the Yough River

On Saturday, July 15, 2017 the Youghiogheny Riverkeeper (YRK) from the Mountain Watershed Association responded to a call about a mine blowout.  The blowout washed thousands of gallons of contaminated mine discharge into Jims Run (Jims Run flows directly into the Youghiogheny River), destroyed roadway infrastructure, and shut down Rt. 381 for several hours.  The source was located.  Water samples were collected, photos were taken, and pH was measured during the site investigation.  The pH was extremely acidic (pH=3) which is inhabitable by fish and most macroinvertebrates.  This was the first emergency the new YRK had responded to since starting as the Youghiogheny Riverkeeper in early June.

Brief history lesson:   A blowout occurred in May of 1993, which caused a fish kill on the Casselman River.  The discharge originated at the Shaw Mines property and killed all aquatic life 42 miles downstream.  

Post Gazette: 1993 Fish Kill on Casselman River

Will this blowout be as devastating as the 1993 blowout?  For now…no!   Could it have been?  Yes, we were lucky and were spared a catastrophic incident.  

What if it had?  The result would be an enormous setback to the tireless work that has been and continues to be done to restore the watershed.  A fish kill on the Yough would affect thousands of people.  The inevitable decline in the adventure tourism economy associated with the river would take years to bounce back.  Business owners, property owners, anglers, visitors, locals, and the people who get  their drinking water from the river (Over 100,000 before reaching the Monongahela River near Pittsburgh) all want the Youghiogheny to be clean.  

Mining in the region has historically led to toxic water and polluted waterways.  Construction of new mines will continue to be a threat to the Youghiogheny watershed.   We need to use our past experiences when we envision our future.  

Check out the Abandoned Mine Reclamation page for more information about treating mine discharge.