Hotline, Fall 2003
by Fran Harkins, GASP Member
Above the Monongahela River on a nearly two-mile stretch between Becks Run and Glass Run roads are 600+ acres of wooded hilltops where Charles Betters wants to conduct surface mining for coal. (See the Summer 2003 Hotline for a background article on this issue.) October 7, 2003 is the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) deadline for accepting public comments on the Surface Mine Permit Application.
The Surface Mine Control & Reclamation Act of 1977 mandates that land, once surface mined, must either be re-graded according to its original contours, or graded according to a detailed and supportable future land use plan. Betters intends to level the land for the maximum commercial use. Though he promotes the possibility of a racetrack and casino with slots, and will change the land’s contours and culvert a waterfall to accommodate this possibility, as yet no approvals have been granted for rezoning the land for such a development. Neither has a thoroughbred license been approved, nor has slots legislation passed the PA House and Senate. Thus, streams will be filled, wildflife decimated, trees logged, coal mined, the level of the land lowered 60-90 feet all to accommodate an unapproved land use. Other, more ecologically stable development on these hillsides could take place, which would leave much more of the land contours, wooded area, streams, and waterfall intact.
As the negative environmental consequences will be massive and long-lasting, citizen involvement is crucial. Please write letters to the DEP regarding these issues of concern.
- Home Damage: Blasting may increase subsidence to nearby already undermined homes.
- Toxics: Toxics may become airborne if anecdotal evidence proves true. The land was a dumpsite for nearly 70 years when owned by J&L, and later LTV.
- Human Health: Diesel truck fumes, blasting and grading, crushing and screening coal and rock will increase small particulate pollution (PM10 and PM2.5) — a serious health hazard.
- Flooding: Removing thousands of trees will increase risks.
- Groundwater Problems: Eliminating streams will prevent groundwater recharge and also may impact the long-standing Hays flooding problems.
- Traffic Congestion and Road Damage: A daily brigade of tri-axle trucks on narrow winding roads.
- Waterworks Damage: Increased sedimentation, acid mine drainage, and blasting may damage Pennsylvania American Water Company’s (PAWC) infrastructure on Becks Run Rd. When asked about damage to the PAWC, a DEP spokesman replied, “There are no guarantees in life.”
- Insurance Costs: Insurance premiums will rise for all if blasting damages windows, homes, water, gas lines and concrete walks.
- Pollution: Dirty windows, cars, homes — PM10 will be perceptible.
- Economic Impact: Negative economic impact on businesses in Homestead and the South Side.
- Land Use Approval: Post-mining land use plans need to be approved before mining and blasting occur.
The full Surface Mine Permit is available at the Hazelwood Library; hours are Monday and Tuesday 10-5, Thursday 10-7, Saturday 11-5. A copy is also available at the Allegheny County Conservation District at 400 N. Lexington St. near Construction Junction; phone 412-241-7645 for an appointment.
Address comments to:
Mr. Paul Cestoni
PA Department of Environmental Protection
Greensburg Mining Office, Armbrust Professional Center
RD #2, Box 603-C
Greensburg, PA 15601-8739
Please include your name, address and telephone number with your statement.
There are other necessary permits; call GASP for more information and go to www.gasp-pgh.org for background news articles.