Volume 17, Issue 26
Just five short years ago, where the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden is currently located, was water polluted with high concentrations of aluminum from a nearby coal mine that was abandoned decades ago.
With the help of an underground treatment system, which removes the acidity from the water, the pond is one attraction seen by 25,000 annual visitors. The other hope garden creators have is that the pond represents that money spent on reclamation projects can reap economic rewards.
“Here they’ve turned a liability into an asset, and that’s the goal,” said Robert Hedin, president of Mt. Lebanon-based Hedin Environmental, which installed the treatment system.
“You can spend on things that have a priority because there’s economic development,” he added. “This place has been the talking point for the last five years about making that money available.”
Before old mining land was restored to how it was before the mine took over, but14 pilot projects in Pennsylvania using $30 million are creating sites that have the potential to add value. Two of the projects are a waterline construction that cleans up acid mine drainage while extending water to a community and construction of a geothermal pool that draws energy from the earth’s natural heat.
The botanic garden is one of a kind. No other project on the state’s list is like it.
“The state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) also awarded funds to the Allegheny County Airport Authority to reclaim 54 acres of abandoned mine land as part of its World Trade Center Business Park development. Airport planners have envisioned more than 1 million square feet of office space, research and development facilities and a hotel with convention space on a bluff overlooking Pittsburgh International Airport” (Moore).
The pond cleanup in the botanic garden was funded through the Growing Greener fund — $250,000 from the state DEP and another $100,000 from the federal Office of Surface Mining.
This was before Congress authorized coal mining states to pull from a new pot of money set aside for mine cleanup with a focus on community development. In July, the DEP announced the 14 sites across the state that would receive $30 million.
“By targeting projects that have an economic development aspect, more funding can be leveraged and more projects completed without additional state dollars,” said Patrick McDonnell, DEP acting secretary. “That’s government that works.”
The Pittsburgh Botanic Garden was awarded $716,000. This money will be spent on reclaiming more land in order to expand to make more gardens available to the public. Officials announced that over the summer, crews will smooth out the cliffs left behind by strip mines and fill in the subsidence pits.
“Generally, there are sites more dangerous than this,” Mr. Hedin said. “But now you throw a botanic garden on top of it … now it becomes a bigger concern.”
“This is a neat place, all the reclamation people want to be part of the botanic garden,” Mr. Hedin said. “There’s lots to clean up but lots of good resources.”
Do you think that Congress is putting this $30 million to good use? Do you think other states should start turning their mines into projects that add value or should they keep restoring mining lands to their original condition? What other mining sites would you like to see refurbished to add value?
Source: Moore, Daniel. “Where Coal Was Once Mined, a Garden Now Thrives.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 01 May 2017. Web. 01 May 2017.