The upper portion of Loyalsock Creek is relatively unpolluted by mine drainage. There are no major mine drainage discharges in this section, and the creek readily assimilates any minor discharges. The Loyalsock Creek watershed is located in the Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania, which is regionally recognized as a year-round recreational area. In reaches not affected by AMD, fishing is a major attraction to residents and tourists. Although Loyalsock Creek is designated as a Cold Water Fishery (CWF), numerous tributaries are designated as High Quality (HQ) and Exceptional Value (EV) Fisheries. According to the DEP, Bureau of Water Quality Management, designated uses are supported on all but 6 of the Loyalsock Creeks 54 miles.
Acid mine drainage from the “B” and “C” tunnel discharges significantly impacts Loyalsock Creek’s ability to support aquatic life. Below the discharges, Loyalsock Creek has reduced pH values which inhibit the survival of macroinvertebrates and some fish species. In addition to a reduced pH, episodic events cause metal concentrations to exceed in-stream limits, thereby preventing healthy macroinvertebrate and fish populations from sustaining themselves. Biological surveys conducted by the
Bureau of Water Quality Management and the Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation indicate degraded water quality with reduced macroinvertebrate and fish populations below the discharges. Recovery is noticeable approximately six miles downstream at Ringdale where water quality improves and macro invertebrate and fish diversity begins to increase. From 1987 to 1990 the Bureau of Water Quality Management conducted a stream survey and found that the diversity of the fish population was significantly reduced downstream of the discharges (excerpt is taken from Loyalsock Creek Qualified Hydrologic Unit Plan in 1998).
Abandoned Mine Drainage (AMD) treatment systems were placed Connell’s Tunnels B and C in the late 1990’s. The PA DEP Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation (BAMR) used $227,561 of Title IV, Appalachian Clean Streams Initiative and $60,256 of AMD Set Aside Funds to create 3 Horizontal Flow Limestone Beds to treat water flowing from the Connell’s Tunnel B discharge and Vertical Flow Pond (VFP) and Settling Pond to treat the water flowing from Connell’s Tunnel C. Unfortunately, the areas are still found to be impacted by higher than desired acid levels.
White Ash Land Association owns much of the mining impacted lands in the headwaters of Loyalsock Creek and with the Sullivan County Conservation District and EPCAMR completed a project in the early 2000’s to lime WALA lake. Limestone and sand are added to the lake periodically to maintain added alkalinity and protect the downstream fishery. See the Sullivan County Conservation District Special Projects website for more information.
The Birch Creek tributary also has some mining impacts and the Guten Drift AMD Discharge which was is treated by 2007. In 2016, the Vertical Flow Pond system was rehabilitated by EPCAMR to re-establish a compost layer, fluff the limestone, and add a flush basin to catch solids before they reach Birch Creek.
Reports for the Watershed:
Loyalsock Creek Qualified Hydrologic Unit Plan – a documentation of AML problems that qualifies the watershed for funding set-aside by the state from the AML Trust Fund (federal AML cleanup funding created SMCRA).
Facebook Album: Loyalsock Creek: Lewis AMD Treatment System[fbphotos id=10151854242264095 rand=1 limit=8]