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Mine-Scarred Lands Initiative Tool Kit: Project Examples Related to Statutory Framework for Mine Revitalization and Related Challenges

Potential Liability for Innocent Parties:
The Pennsylvania Mine Project
The Snake River Watershed Task Force is a group that was established in 1999 to improve water quality in the Snake River watershed in Summit County, Colorado. The group has broad representation from the business community, local, state and federal governments, non-profit organizations, and community residents. Despite the fact that it has developed extensive expertise on the site’s contamination issues and treatment options, it is unable to move forward due to liability concerns associated with the Clean Water Act. This law has a provision that requires a permit to discharge any pollutants into the watershed. The permit would likely require any party that acquires the land to conduct treatment. Because current treatment technologies cannot meet the cleanup levels required, the owner could potentially be subject to perpetual liability. Additionally, the law has a provision that allows individuals adversely affected by the discharges of contaminated water to bring a citizen suit for violations. The Task Force continues to explore innovative solutions to having an innocent party clean up the mine without being held liable.

Limitations of SMCRA Reclamation Activities:
The Cranberry Creek Gateway Park Project
Compaction of land is necessary to support the weight of buildings on reclaimed mines. SMCRA funding is the main resource coal communities use to fund reclamation. However, this funding allows land to be filled, but not compacted. The costs for site compaction can be greatly reduced if it can be done in conjunction with the filling of land. At the Cranberry Creek site, the project team is hoping to combine the SMCRA Reclamation Funds with other funding sources that can support compaction such as the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Section 108/Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program or a state economic development program. Compaction will only be conducted on portions of the 366-acre property that are targeted for redevelopment. Early consultation with the state mining office is essential in determining how to incorporate SMCRA funds into compaction activities.

Combining Brownfields Assessment and SMCRA Reclamation Activities:
The Kelly’s Creek Project
The Kelly’s Creek community has a significant acid mine drainage problem. Funding is available through SMCRA to clean up the acid mine areas that were polluted before 1977. However, since the community included both pre- and post-1977 mining activities, an assessment needed to be completed to determine the source of contamination. Since SMCRA funds can only be used for the actual reclamation and not assessment, the community used its EPA Brownfields Assessment grant to determine where the contamination originated. SMCRA funding will be used to remediate the pre-1977 critical discharge points and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection will provide funding to reclaim the post-1977 critical discharge points.

 

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