The Earth Conservancy is seeking an engineer to start the process of cleaning up land in Warrior Run that was used for years as a dumping ground for coal mine waste.
Earth Conservancy Director of Public Affairs and Development Jacqueline Munro said the land, located near Slope Street, consists of 13.26 acres and is part of an approximately 80-acre site the nonprofit organization also owns and plans to clean up some time in the future.
Because the 13-acre parcel is adjacent to a residential area, “That was the place that made the most sense to start,” she said.
Munro said the land was used as a holding site for “overburden” or “culm” — unusable remnants from the coal mining process, such as rock mixed with bits of coal too small to bother with. This waste material doesn’t allow for quality trees and plants to grow; instead the piles are covered in scrub vegetation, she said.
Munro said funding for the project is from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s “brownfields” program, which aims to clean up former industrial and mining sites.
Earth Conservancy Executive Director Mike Dziak said the organization is soliciting bids for engineering and design. Proposals are due by Aug. 18.
The request states that the engineer will “Prepare alternatives that take into consideration current topography, access points, future utility connections” and review those alternatives with the Earth Conservancy, which will select one of the options. The engineer will then come up with a list of what needs to be done and a cost estimate, prepare the detailed plans needed for getting permits, and work with the Earth Conservancy on getting bids for construction.
Because it is adjacent to a residential area, building homes on the land could be a possibility. However, the cleanup is in the earliest preliminary stage, so it’s too soon to say what will be done with the land after it’s reclaimed.
Dziak said the Earth Conservancy won’t know the extent of the project “until we go through the engineering work.” He said the plan is to see what the alternatives are, then decide how to proceed.
“But that is months ahead,” Dziak noted.
Earth Conservancy was formed in 1992 to reclaim mine-scarred former Blue Coal Co. land. The organization, which has won numerous awards for environmental excellence, has cleaned up thousands of acres disfigured by strip pits, culm dumps and other ravages of coal mining, allowing the land to be used for industrial parks, residential development, natural greenspace and recreational areas.
“Every little bit we do, slowly but steadily the acres add up that have been reclaimed,” Munro said.
First Published August 5, 2014 8:00 PM