1. #1
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    Post Abandoned Mine Fires in PA

    Anyone have a brilliant idea on how to extinguish these fires?

    By DAN NEPHIN
    Associated Press Writer
    PITTSBURGH (AP) - For more than three decades, a fire has been
    simmering inside the old abandoned Percy Mine, along the top of a
    coal seam in the rural farmlands of southwestern Pennsylvania. At
    970 feet underground at its deepest point, the fire is contained on
    one side by a mine pool and on another by rock, its flames spread
    through a labyrinth of tunnels.
    Millions of dollars have been spent over the past two decades
    trying to control the fire; other material was pumped in, portions
    were excavated and workers tried building a clay wall to contain
    it. State officials hope to finally extinguish the fire with a new
    $3.2 million plan to pump a mixture of coal ash and cement into
    bore holes, cutting off the fire's oxygen.
    The fire illustrates one of the more difficult tasks
    environmental officials face in trying to clean up thousands of
    abandoned mine lands scattered across the state, mostly in the
    bituminous region of western Pennsylvania and the anthracite
    regions of northeast Pennsylvania.
    An estimated 1.6 million Pennsylvanians live within one mile of
    an abandoned mine, where problems include fires, acid mine
    drainage, open shafts and blowouts. Eliminating the dangers of
    abandoned mine lands, known as reclamation, is expected to take
    decades.
    Since 1980, Pennsylvania has been provided $665 million in
    reclamation funds from the federal Abandoned Mine Land fund,
    according to the state Department of Environmental Protection. The
    program has taxed surface-mined coal at 35 cents a ton and coal
    mined underground at 15 cents a ton since 1978, with coal operators
    paying more than $7 billion so far into the fund.
    Since the federal program began, Pennsylvania has reclaimed
    17,000 acres and cleaned up 180 miles of streams. But the DEP
    estimates it will take 50 or 60 years and $15 billion to clean
    250,000 acres and more than 2,100 miles of degraded streams.
    At any given time, the DEP's Bureau of Abandoned Mine
    Reclamation is working on some 70 to 80 reclamation projects. They
    are ranked by priority, with top priority given to projects that
    impact people's health and safety.
    "Our phones ring off the hook with people calling about
    abandoned mine features," said J. Scott Horrell, environmental
    program manager with the bureau.
    The most significant problem can be waters polluted by acid mine
    drainage. It is frequently treated using passive treatment systems,
    which mimic the process by which acid mine drainage clears up in
    nature, but in a controlled setting and much faster.
    Acid mine drainage is the term given to water that flows out of
    abandoned mines or through coal refuse piles. Water entering voids
    in mines reacts with oxygen and minerals containing iron and
    sulfur, and the polluted water leaves the mine carrying those
    compounds.
    Acid mine drainage usually appears as a rusty orange or yellow
    substance known as yellowboy that coats streambeds, suffocating
    life. (Mine drainage can also carry aluminum or magnesium, but iron
    is most common.)
    Passive treatment uses artificial ponds and wetlands through
    which the polluted water is directed. As the water enters the
    ponds, iron begins to precipitate, or settle out. As water flows
    from pond to pond, it gets cleaner until it's clean enough to
    discharge into a stream. The ponds often use limestone, which
    raises the water's alkalinity, thereby lowering the amount of iron
    it can carry.
    Reclamation can also take other forms.
    Advances in coal burning technology enable companies to re-mine
    hulking waste coal piles, also called boney piles or gob piles.
    Pennsylvania has an estimated 250 million tons of waste coal.
    Removing the coal eliminates the source of pollutants that are
    flushed out by rain and ground water and companies must clean the
    sites to current environmental standards.
    Reliant Energy last year opened the country's largest waste coal
    burning power plant in Seward. The Westmoreland County plant
    generates enough energy to power about 156,000 households and burns
    about 3.5 million tons of waste coal annually.
    "Modern day coal mining can be great allies in dealing with
    sins of the past," said Bruce Golden, executive director of the
    Western Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation.
    Another problem of abandoned mines can be open mine shafts,
    which must be filled in and sealed off to prevent people from
    falling in or suffocating from gases.
    In the Beaver County town of Fallston, DEP officials plan to
    spend $100,000 to seal several entries at a mine abandoned since
    the 1960s. The openings - one of which looks simply like a cave -
    pose a risk of collapse and officials believe teenagers gather at
    the site, as evidenced by a chair and scattered cans found there.
    Abandoned mines can also have dangerous highwalls, sheer cliffs
    created during surface mining. To reduce the risk of collapse,
    officials must grade the highwalls to resemble how they were before
    they were mined.
    The state plans to spend about $500,000 to do just that to a
    highwall near the Beaver County town of Darlington. Left from a
    strip mine that is now closed, the highwall has become an
    attraction for ATV riders.
    Frequently, the state contracts with private firms for
    reclamation work because there is simply so much to do.
    The DEP is talking with utility holding company Exelon Corp.
    about the potential to use treated mine water to cool its Limerick
    Generating Station. The company currently uses water pumped from
    the Schuylkill River or, during low-flow periods, pumps water 48
    miles from the Delaware River.
    J. Scott Roberts, deputy secretary of DEP's office of mineral
    resources management, said the first phase of a feasibility study
    was promising.
    "If that works, that's 35 million gallons of mine drainage that
    will be treated at no cost to anyone in the commonwealth," Roberts
    said.
    Once the old mines are cleaned up, many have found new uses for
    the land.
    In Elk County, elk forage on grasses planted on a reclaimed
    strip mine. Also, trout have returned to parts of Yellow Creek in
    Indiana County, where Robert L. Eppley, president of the Blacklick
    Creek Watershed Association, also envisions a recreational trail
    over an old railroad bed on which coal was transported.
    ---
    On the Net:
    DEP Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation:
    http://www.dep.state.pa.us/dep/deput.../bamr/bamr.htm
    Western Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation:
    http://amrclearinghouse.org

    (Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
    Proudly serving as the IACOJ Minister of Information & Propoganda!
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    *Gathering Crust Since 1968*
    On the web at www.section2wildfire.com

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    For a couple of mil, I can get a bunch of guys together and we can try something that doesn't work, too.

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    You can count me in on that.


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    I think they had this city/town on The Daily Show. Sounds familiar.

    I hear if you freeze cans of shaving cream and throw em in someone's car it fills the car up with it. Maybe a million bucks worth of frozen shaving cream cans will do the trick?

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    Can't we just fill it up with water?

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    I know that some of the mines in Pa. are being filled with the ash waste product from coal fired power plants. They take 5 - 10 truck loads of waste ash a week out of our plant alone and from what the drivers tell me they back up and dump right into the mine.

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    This sounds just like Centralia. From what I've heard, they've tried everything, and wasted a lot of our state and federal taxes doing it, to no avail. I think every few years they concoct a new plan that ends up not working....

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    This is a VERY big problem. We have some of the same issues here in WV. A good portion of my departments first-due sits on old abandoned coal mines, as does a good bit of the rest of the county...and probably about every other county in the State of West Virginia.

    It was only a month or so ago that we had a dog spend over a week in an old mine shaft. Luckily he was on a ledge only about 30 feet down and was found by some ATVers and was later rescued. If a dog can fall in, so can a kid and so can anyone or anything else. Mine shafts and sink holes due to mine subsidence are a major concern on SAR calls, as well as brush fires because when you get into the woods you never know where they'll be. People (ATVers, hunters, hikers) could literally fall out of existence. If they were alone, no one would ever know what happened to them. Also, these things can potentially be hundreds of feet deep. One of my worst fears is having to do a rescue from one. I don't even want to think about it...and 3/4 of my dept. maintains that we don't need advanced high/low angle rescue, confined spaces, or trench rescue training, or the equipment to deal with it, but that's an issue for another thread! Then of course you could get into a discussion on structural damage to buildings because of mine subsidence, and the problems we could deal with if an already damaged building is on fire.

    As for the fires, seal up the mines and pump in noncombustible material, whether it be water to suppress or extinguish it or concrete or whatever to head it off and snuff it. Here they have even used nitrogen to generate foam, jet engines to displace explosive mine gases, you name it.

    I realize how important the coal mining industry is to my area and surrounding states, but sometimes all of this can get downright irritating and this is definitely a subject I could get on a REALLY BIG soap box about, but I'll spare you. Like, okay, we protect your mines and are always there when you call us to come and take care of personal injury accidents and equipment fires and such, so where is the $$$ to support this service that we provide to you, a multi-million dollar corporation?! Anyway...

    Mining is risky...necessary, but risky...there are risks to the environment, people who live in the area, and to us as first responders. Now, what really makes me mad is the fact that so many incidents can be prevented! Already once this year my dept. has responded, along with half of the rest of the county, to a mine portal for an intake fan fire. Now any fire in or near a mine has the potential to be disastrous, and this fire was caused by poor maintenance. Duuuuhhhhh mechanical parts! If they're not lubricated, what is going to eventually happen?!?!

    Edited to add: Loveridge Mine Fire <--- Very interesting article.
    Last edited by Co11FireGal; 07-21-2005 at 03:40 AM.
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  11. #11
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    If I remember correctly, (not easy at my age) there was a "Gripping the edge of your seat" Mine Rescue in Pennsylvania a few years back. Miners working in one mine were trapped by floodwaters after a wall broke through from an adjacent abandoned and flooded mine. Thus, the bright idea at hand: All someone needs to do is invent a means of connecting all the flooded ones to the burning ones. George? Jerry? I got the can, guys. Let's hit it.......
    Never use Force! Get a Bigger Hammer.
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    Time to break out the Volkswagons (Drager BG174's).
    Busy polishing the stacked tips on the deckgun of I.A.C.O.J. Engine#1

    ...and before you ask - YES I have done a Bloody SEARCH!

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    I'm surprised we can't find a FD that could do this. I have watched alot of them fight fire by attempting to fill the basement with water. It would just take a little more time to do it with a mine.

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    Surely you could divert part of a stream or a river into it? If not just fill all the holes with fluffy foam. starve it of oxygen. Though i have seen fire burn a tree out and then proceed to travel down its roots and pop up again outside of the containment area, starting another bushfire so im not so sure how well that would work.
    "There are only two things that i know are infinite, the universe and human stupidity. And im not so sure about the former."

    For all the life of me, i cant see a firefighter going to hell. At least not for very long. We would end up putting out all the fires and annoying the devil too much.

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    Originally posted by GeorgeWendtCFI
    I'm surprised we can't find a FD that could do this. I have watched alot of them fight fire by attempting to fill the basement with water. It would just take a little more time to do it with a mine.
    I think you're on to something. I've seen this tactic used a few times over the years, and it is an excellent way of protecting the concrete slab that makes up the basement floor. Being the observant person that I am, I also noted that there are extremely few rekindles of debris that is immersed in water. We should not have too much trouble hiring a Chief who is well versed in this type of extingushment. Could you call Harrisburg and get the unlimited State Funding set up? I'll go to Washington and start on the Federal side.
    Last edited by hwoods; 07-24-2005 at 09:38 AM.
    Never use Force! Get a Bigger Hammer.
    In memory of
    Chief Earle W. Woods, 1912 - 1997
    Asst. Chief John R. Woods Sr. 1937 - 2006

    IACOJ Budget Analyst

    I Refuse to be a Spectator. If I come to the Game, I'm Playing.

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