Comms: Federal aid for acidic mine drainage still needed

With acidic drainage from abandoned mines still polluting Pennsylvania waterways, the Lycoming County commissioners called for continued federal funding for surface control Thursday.

Local Trout Unlimited organizations concerned about native fish populations and preserving the county’s streams, tributaries and rivers spurred the commissioners to publicly endorse the urge to control the toxic runoff. In response, the commissioners signed a resolution marking their position on the issue.

Commissioner Rick Mirabito said some of the statistics revealed in recent years were staggering.

“1.4 million Pennsylvanians live within a mile of an abandoned mine,” he said.

Over the course of 130 years, 44 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties have had coal or other mines dug into their mountains and subsequently abandoned, he said.

“By the way, a lot of those counties are rural counties,” said Mirabito. “It’s very enlightening for us to understand the history, and not allow the history to be repeated in the future.”

Though many of the practices and fracking companies today have changed, Lycoming County residents should still be cautious, he said.

“In relationship to the gas drilling — not to say that we don’t want to extract natural gas — but to say that it’s important as citizens for us to be sure that we take the safeguards so that, 130 years from now, citizens are not having to deal with gas wells, acid mine drainage and all the problems that come with it,” said Mirabito.

Commissioner Jack McKernan agreed with Mirabito and thought many residents and landowners have become more aware of the issues.

“I think everybody is much more aware of the problems that the bad actors bring. I think we’re very fortunate that for the most part, the gas industry is proven to be responsible,” he said.

Especially landowners have done well to be careful in dealing with gas companies, said McKernan.

“I think a lot more have given concern in signing leases to make sure that the leases have all the proper wording in them to afford the landowner the ability to go after the drillers if there are problems on their property,” he said.

For Lycoming County as a whole, McKernan added, “I think for the most part, we’ve been very fortunate.”