EPCAMR has been assisting in the testing and monitoring of the Askam AMD Treatment System located on Earth Conservancy Property in the Dundee Wetlands. The Askam borehole, located just off of Route 29, along Dundee Road, feeds into Nanticoke Creek and eventually the Susquehanna River, below the City of Nanticoke, depositing iron oxide and polluting the waterway. In order to help resolve this issue, the Earth Conservancy is currently constructing an AMD treatment system utilizing an innovative treatment technology called the Maelstrom Oxidizer. Drivers who are cruising along the South Cross Valley ExpressWay along State Route 29 Southbound can see the construction activity as they make their way to either the Nanticoke Exit or Plymouth on the West side of the Wyoming Valley, if they just look over their shoulders to the passenger’s side window.
As the iron is exposed to oxygen, it falls to the bottom of the stream as thick orange precipitate, coating the sides and bottom of the channel and impacting native wildlife species. The Maelstrom Oxidizer injects large amounts of air through a series of tubes, allowing the iron to drop out of the water more quickly, this reducing the area coated with orange sediment, or Yellow Boy. However, the system does require the use of electricity, which can become a long-term maintenance cost issue for the Earth Conservancy.
In October 2011, EPCAMR was contracted by the Earth Conservancy to conduct a baseline study in order to test water quality, determine insect populations, and conduct a visual habitat assessment. The study, which took place over a period of two years from November 2011 to January 2013, showed that the Askam #1 and #2 have a combined typical flow of around 2000 gallons per minute with an average of 30 mg/L of iron. This means that 807 pounds of iron oxide are deposited into the Nanticoke Creek from this discharge alone daily.
The data gathered by EPCAMR allowed staff to analyze and compare existing water conditions to previous baseline historic water quality data. After the construction project is completed, EPCAMR will continue to assess and monitor with 7 main services to be rendered. EPCAMR will first research, collect, summarize, and analyze existing baseline historic water quality data from reports, studies, assessments, projects, and remediation efforts in the Nanticoke Creek Watershed. Comparisons to historic water quality data will allow for a better understanding of how well the treatment system is working and how effective it is when compared to past water quality reports. Secondly, EPCAMR will be taking photo-inventory and descriptions of all Field Sites and Geographic Locations using GIS/GPS.
In addition, EPCAMR will perform Visual Stream Assessment and continued Water Quality Monitoring of the Nanticoke Creek Stream Habitat Corridor west of Middle Road to Loomis Park both pre & post construction of the treatment system, Areas that will be assessed within these areas include: Nanticoke Creek upstream of the Askam Borehole (instream), the Askam AMD Borehole Discharge, Nanticoke Creek downstream of the Askam Borehole (instream), and the Loomis Discharge along Dundee Road. EPCAMR will continue to assess the completed Askam Treatment System up to 1 year after completion. Along with assessment of water quality, EPCAMR will continue to take Biological Stream Samples in order to assess the presence and health of macro-invertebrates, fishes, and amphibians both upstream and downstream of the Askam Borehole. EPCAMR will perform water flow monitoring of Nanticoke Creek pre & post construction of the Askam AMD system. Assessing water flow will allow EPCAMR to determine the loading of iron, acidity, and alkalinity upstream and downstream of the borehole, at the Askam treatment system, and at the Loomis Discharge. Finally, EPCAMR will complete a final report compiling all of the data gathered over the course of the year long assessment period. All of EPCAMR’s services for the Askam AMD Treatment System will allow for continued monitoring of the area to assess stream health while providing an accurate picture of the effectiveness of the treatment system.
Once EPCAMR is finished with stream assessment and water quality testing, they will continue to be involved with the Askam Borehole Treatment system in order to use it as a resource for education and outreach on the impacts of AMD and the benefits of the Askam system. Using this will allow EPCAMR to provide insight to the local community and create and promote activities related to AMD treatment systems in partnership with the Earth Conservancy. “EPCAMR appreciates Earth Conservancy’s willingness to allow us to utilize this site and many others as outdoor environmental education classrooms throughout the year, otherwise, our students in this area will have learned very little about the mining impacts and the eventual treatment system processes that are improving our local waterways”, Robert Hughes, EPCAMR Executive Director enthusiastically stated.