The AMR Conference Planning Committee is working on developing a great conference program! Here is a list of presentations that have been approved in no particular order. Stay tuned for more…

“Leveraging the Ecosystem Services of the North American Beaver for Water Quality Improvement”, Scott G. McGill, Ecotone, Inc.

Beaver (Castor Canadensis), once numbering in the hundreds of millions across North America, were nearly extirpated in the late 1890’s.  Recently, their numbers are increasing in many regions across North America.  Long regarded as a nuisance species, beavers’ role as an ecosystem engineer have only recently been promoted and recognized.  Beaver dams and the water they store provide important ecosystem services, including increased groundwater recharge, floodplain reconnection, significant reductions in peak flow discharges, enhanced wildlife habitat, nutrient processing, sediment storage, fire breaks, and wetland creation.  As a tool for restoration, beaver dams enhance water quality, process nutrients, store carbon, provide ecological uplift, and provide effective stormwater management benefits.    A compilation of current research from North America as well as Europe will be shared indicating beaver have a significant role to play in watershed restoration efforts and as a low cost and scalable “secret weapon” for treating acid-mine drainage from legacy mining sites.  Techniques which leverage and promote beaver colonization and co-existence will be shared through project examples.  Methods include planting regimes to develop food sources, floodplain reconnection to maximize stream power distribution across the floodplain, designing for long term aggradation, and incorporating beaver dam analogs (BDA’s).      

“Impact and Outcomes Communication: Annual Reports for Watershed Organizations”, Tali MacArthur, Pennsylvania Organization for Watershed and Rivers

Across Pennsylvania, thousands of volunteers affiliated with community watershed organizations (CWOs) are doing critical work to restore waterways and watersheds today and are cultivating and fostering future generations of watershed stewards. They have organized stream and illegal dump cleanups, planted miles of riparian buffers, facilitated the remediation of streams impacted by abandoned mine drainage, and helped educate thousands of residents about the value of clean water and healthy watersheds. Many CWOs manage citizen water quality monitoring programs, collecting data that help residents and municipal officials understand the impacts of their actions on water quality. 

The mission of the Pennsylvania Organization for Watershed and Rivers (POWR) is to empower CWO leaders and volunteers to attain their stewardship, restoration, education, and conservation goals through providing technical assistance, targeted education opportunities, and access to new tools and resources. One way POWR is fulfilling this mission is by providing tools and resources to help build the capacity of CWOs leaders to create more powerful, impactful, and engaging outreach and messaging strategies and linking those to shared human values within their local communities. CWOs have identified challenges related to securing grants, recruiting and retaining volunteers, and communicating to stakeholders and decision-makers their value to water resource and watershed health as well as overall community well-being. POWR has also heard requests from stakeholders to support efforts to more effectively convey the specific and overall benefit, impact, and importance of the work and efforts of CWOs in Pennsylvania.

In response to these identified challenges and requests, POWR is implementing an approach to assist CWOs track, measure, and communicate the results and impacts of their efforts and successes using, among other things, annual reports. Compelling, interesting, and well-designed annual reports that describe, define, and demonstrate impact can help groups attain social support and buy-in. They have been documented to lead to an increased investment of time, talent, and treasure by facilitating recruitment of new volunteers, new members, financial donations, and grant funding for the work of CWO’s restore aquatic and streamside habitat. Annual reports can help promote the value of CWOs to a wide variety of audiences— a critical need at a time when there are clear indicators of threats to the fulfillment of CWO’s short- and long-term objectives as well as their organizational sustainability.  

However, CWOs are generally led by volunteers with limited time for additional tasks and projects to the ones they are managing and implementing. Therefore, POWR is creating an “annual report toolkit and template” that can be easily adapted by CWOs to convey the messages they feel are most important in a way that meets their needs and those of their target audiences. The annual report toolkit and template is based on the Impacts and Metrics Assessment conducted by POWR with support from CWOs and funded by Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds. This presentation will summarize the rationale for POWR’s Impact and Outcomes Measurement and Communication and the resulting toolkit and its applications.

“The Utilization of C&D Fines for Mine Reclamation and Economic Development”, Morgan Popple, Earth Revival

Simpson Stone Quarry under Waste Permit #101713 allows us to reclaim abandoned pre-act coal pits with a blend of C & D Fines, Portland and water. There are both challenges and successes in the project regarding site operations, our processes, and machines. Knowledge gained from this project can be applied statewide. Modification of current regulations and other challenges should be weighed against benefits.

Project Benefits:

  • Restoration of abandoned mine lands to suitable conditions for future development leading to new tax streams       
  • Restoration of abandoned mine lands to original contours leading to a return of the land’s natural watersheds
  • Utilization of a waste product thus saving virgin aggregates and natural resources during the reclamation process
  • Conservation of landfill space in the utilization of C & D Fines
  • Remediation of the safety hazards present at abandoned mine lands
  • Reutilization of centrally located abandoned mine sites’ existing roadways and utilities
  • Local employment opportunities gained
  • Improved Public Safety
  • All goals are achieved at zero cost to the taxpayer saving taxpayer funds

“Experimental Practice Land Application of Treatment Lime Slurry Sludge Project in Clarion County Pennsylvania” Christopher Yeakle, PA DEP

Chris Yeakle is the Environmental Program Manager for the Knox District Mining Office of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.  Chris has spent 36+ years working for the Knox DMO in various capacities.  Prior to assuming the Program Manager position, Chris was the Watershed Manager for 4+ years, overseeing the treatment of post-mining discharges in the Knox District. 

The REM Coal Orcutt Smail active treatment system in Jefferson County treats Acid Mine Drainage discharges utilizing lime slurry.  The sludge generated from the treatment system is collected in a series of ponds and then pumped into Geo Tubes.  In 2018, the Geo Tubes were filled to capacity and needed to be removed.  The Knox District Mining Office and their O&M contractor, M. Stewart Services, thought land application of the sludge would support vegetation and could benefit land use on properties with abandoned mine features from Pre-Act mining.  The Knox Office began searching for a suitable experimental site and contacted the Pa Game Commission to possibly find a location on State Game Land properties.  State Game Lands 74 in Clarion County was selected for the experimental site.  The Knox Office worked with the PA Game Commission to enhance a food plot on SGL 74.  The sludge was hauled from the Orcutt-Smail site to an approximately 2-acre food plot on SGL 74 in the Summer/Fall of 2018.  The sludge was allowed to rest until it was sufficiently dry to till and disc in preparation for planting.  The site was initially planted in November 2018.  This presentation will provide an overview of this experimental practice, the lessons learned, and the results from this experiment.

“Repurposing Legacy Sediment on Rural Abandoned Mines”, Joe Sweeney, Watershed Sciences Institute, Denise Coleman, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

The repurposing of legacy sediments from stream restoration projects presents a unique challenge and opportunity to support and incentivize future projects and landowner willingness to participate in potential projects.

Despite many challenges, legacy sediment has significant potential to be repurposed due in part to its widespread availability and consistency in the Piedmont physiographic province which is the primary focus of this investigation.  Legacy sediment in this region has been concentrated in valley bottoms due primarily to widescale damming of valley bottoms to develop preindustrial waterpower sources associated with the requirements of European settlement. Thousands of milldams and the subsequent formation of millponds trapped and concentrated legacy sediments in these valley bottoms, causing significant alterations in hydrology and ecology which today pose a significant challenge to local and Chesapeake Bay water quality goals.

Today, a typical milldam site contains thousands of tons of sediment that is in a constant cycle of freeze, thaw, and transport of bank erosion depending on the time of milldam breach. Large loads are introduced to the stream system in the initial ~20 years and lesser, but still, significant loads erode over an additional 50–75-year period. As an example, current estimates are that ~70% of sediment load in the Chiques Creek watershed of Lancaster County, Pa. is the result of bank erosion, primarily from breached impoundments including dams, farm ponds, bridges, and culverts.  Numerous field investigations throughout the mid-Atlantic region have found legacy sediment to consist of fine silts, sand, and clays with ~1 pound of Phosphorous and ~2 pounds of Nitrogen per ton of sediment.  While varying by site, a typical ton of legacy sediment has a low to moderate level of organic matter largely influenced by age, current land use, and the state of its source.  No known restoration site within a typical valley bottom stream project has ever identified toxic materials in excess of EPA standards for human health.

This project only looks at riparian corridors previously identified as having legacy sediment present.  The work consists of overlaying third-generation LiDAR with second-generation LiDAR to identify the areas of legacy sediment with the highest erosive potential.  Those sites will be prioritized and evaluated using available GIS data, landowner objections, and the best-case site treatment system.  Ten sites will be chosen for a site-specific evaluation.  This will include soil sampling to assure there is no presence of hazardous materials as well as scoping of how and where the sediment can be relocated, including costs associated with relocation.  The results of this analysis will be a recommendation of the most efficient and cost-effective method of treatment of the legacy sediment as well as the identification of site characteristics that will generally allow for a successful project.

“Abandoned Coal Mine Drainage Cleanup Through Domestic Production of Critical Minerals for National Security”, Sarma V. Pisupati, Mohammad Rezaee, and Barbara J. Arnold, Penn State University

The Commonwealth of P.A., through coal mining, has been a provider of energy and a driver of economic development of the U.S. Due to these activities, there are 5,500 miles of streams producing billions of gallons of acidic water runoff from abandoned coal mines. When flowing through coal and other associated materials, the acidic water leaches rare earth elements and other critical minerals. Presently this acidic water is treated by building and operating expensive treatment facilities by the State to meet the environmental regulations. The United States and the world have seen exponential growth in critical minerals for various applications, ranging from sustainable energy and national defense to modern electronic and medical applications. The United States is 100% import-reliant for 17 of 35 critical elements identified by the United States Department of Interior in 2018. Another 14 have net import reliance greater than 50% of consumption.

Acid mine drainage (AMD) and associated sludge materials are an excellent resources for recovering these critical minerals (CM) (such as Al, REEs Co, and Mn), which are essential components of advanced technologies. A recent study conducted by Penn State researchers revealed that Pennsylvania AMD streams originated from abandoned mines, and coal refuse piles from the Lower Kittanning coal contain the most sought-after heavy rare earth elements. These waste sources contain varying concentrations of rare earth and critical mineral (CM) elements required for the nation’s sustainable development.

Penn State has developed a novel process to recover some of these critical minerals, tested the method for proof of concept, and patented the process by the investigators. This presentation will discuss the developed process and the potential for the Commonwealth of PA. The process extracts critical minerals from AMD and sludge and recovers 90% of these minerals (iron, aluminum, rare earths, cobalt, and manganese) from the raw feed material.

“Shamokin Creek Watershed AMD Tour May 2022”, Jeff Herb, Shamokin Creek Restoration Alliance

Follow Shamokin Creek from its headwaters to its mouth, exploring the vast number of abandoned mine reclamation sites in the watershed. Including simple pH testing, treatment systems, aerial imagery, and narration.

“Rondell-Correal Mine Drainage Treatment System – Treatment for high level aluminum mine discharges pilot project”, Fred Douglas, Cosmos Technologies and Carla Ruddock, Mountain Watershed Association, Inc.

The Rondell-Correal discharge located in Saltlick Township, Fayette County, PA is the headwaters of Newmyer Run, a tributary of Poplar Run within the Indian Creek watershed. The discharge is from the former Rondell Strip Mine that mined the Middle Kittanning and Brookville-Clarion coal seams. It exhibits the most degraded water quality in the Indian Creek watershed discharging anywhere between 4 to 60 gallons per minute of highly acidic (pH 2.8) water with high levels of aluminum (60 mg/L), iron (40 mg/L), and manganese (40 mg/L).

Mountain Watershed Association worked with Cosmos Technologies to develop a treatment technology concentrating on the removal of high levels of aluminum in discharges with limited area for traditional or passive treatment. This technology is an Advanced Catalytic Treatment Process. This process removes greater than 99% Aluminum and greater than 99% iron in a comparatively small footprint compared to sedimentation technologies. The process also demonstrates significant Mn removal. This technology is cost-competitive and achieves a cost of less than $0.5 per 1000 gallons. This presentation will provide an overview of the pilot phase, including successes and challenges as well as a discussion of what is needed for full-scale implementation.

“Indian Creek Watershed – A Legacy of Abandoned Mine Reclamation Efforts”, Carla Ruddock, Mountain Watershed Association, Inc.

In 1994, Mountain Watershed Association (MWA) was born when community members rallied together to stop a deep mine from being permitted in the Indian Creek watershed. Energized from their victory, the group shifted their focus to cleaning up the watershed. The area was plagued with the remnants of past mining activities with over 130 discharges being identified within the 125 square mile Indian Creek watershed.

MWA worked with Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) to conduct a PL 566 study, and Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation (BAMR) to develop a comprehensive restoration plan for the Indian Creek watershed. Both of these documents have guided MWA’s restoration activities that have improved more than 10 miles of Indian Creek. Since the 2000 Integrated Waterbodies Report, 70% of streams listed as impaired within the Indian Creek watershed have been restored (Indian Creek River Conservation Plan: The Sequel, 2021).

Within the 125 square miles of the Indian Creek watershed, Mountain Watershed Association has implemented five passive treatment systems, one land-liming project, the first phase of a sixth passive system, and the Rondell-Correal Pilot Treatment system – an active treatment technology. These systems require frequent monitoring, maintenance, repairs, and refurbishment. The video tour includes stops at four of our passive treatment systems (Melcroft, Kalp, Sagamore, and Gallentine), most of which are located along the Laurel Highlands Scenic Byway (Route 711) in route to popular tourist destinations such as Ohiopyle State Park and Fallingwater. The video will feature short tours of the treatment systems as well as some drone footage of monitoring and maintenance activities. In addition, the tour will include drone footage of the installation of the Rondell-Correal active treatment system.

“The Proposed AML/AMD Subaward Program”, Jon Smoyer, PADEP

This presentation will provide the basic framework, requirements, and a pre-view of the application process for a new Abandoned Mine Land(AML)/Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) sub-award program that will be implemented as the result of the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), also known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL).   The IIJA/BIL is forecast to increase the amount of AML funding to Pennsylvania to approximately $270 million/year.  The IIJA/BIL also allows for the expenditure of federal funds to address stand-alone Priority 3 problems.  Monies will be allocated for both land reclamation and AMD abatement and/or AMD treatment on a frequent basis in order to maximize and streamline reclamation of the problems left from abandoned coal mining in Pennsylvania. The proposed Subaward program will allow eligible entities and partners to greatly participate in the reclamation and AMD impacted stream restoration efforts in Pennsylvania.      

“Federal Legislative Update”, Ryan Ellis, IMCC and NAAMLP

The past year brought significant interest in coal AML work from both Congress and the Biden Administration. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) aka Bi-Partisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) provided major infusions of funding for coal AML, cementing the Title IV program’s future for the next two decades. Notable changes are taking shape for how the state Title IV agencies operate in this new era of the coal AML program.

This presentation will review recent legislative developments for coal AML work, the implementation changes underway, and prospects for further developments relevant to coal AML work in the future.

“Report Underscores Coal Refuse Reclamation to Energy Industry’s Role in Achieving Net Zero Emissions”, Jaret Gibbons, ARIPPA

As calls for a carbon-free electric sector by 2035 continue to grow, the Appalachian Region Independent Power Producers Association (ARIPPA) is working diligently to preserve the coal refuse reclamation to energy industry. To aid in those efforts, ARIPPA recently commissioned a report comparing the air emissions of coal refuse reclamation to energy facilities to those of unremediated coal refuse piles. This report will help ARIPPA in promoting the important role these facilities play in helping clean up the Appalachian region’s extensive abandoned mine lands problem, as well as achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions goals. The final report will be published in 2022. This presentation will provide a brief overview of the coal refuse reclamation to energy industry and highlight the results of the final report.

“Creating Meaningful Watershed Educational Experiences (MWEE) and Real-world Inquiry using Abandoned Mine Drainage and Treatment Systems as Living Labs”, Miranda Crotsley, Jennings Environmental Education Center, PA State Parks

Abandoned mine drainage and associated treatment systems are local to hundreds of thousands of students in Pennsylvania and present an opportunity to both engage students in real-world science experiences, and to assist landowners, stewards, and organizations in managing their resources. Using inquiry-based techniques, schools and professionals can partner together to address the effects of abandoned mine drainage and treatment systems on aquatic ecosystems.

While traditional education programs often provide a one-way teacher à learner experience with pre-determined outcomes, the living labs of aquatic ecosystems can be leveraged to introduce a more student-driven, inquiry-based approach that uses the Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience or MWEE. Based on research into how students best learn science and promoted by the PA Department of Education and others, these techniques and framework rely on the educators and professionals to be facilitators and puts the students (as learners) in control, thereby creating an experience that is not only more beneficial to student learning, but also mirrors the work of scientists in the field and gives students confidence in their own abilities to do science and be a scientist.

As classes of students become scientists in the field during such experiences, landowners and stewards stand to mutually benefit. Our own knowledge of the resource is improved, issues can be identified, and new management strategies emerge from student work. Through MWEEs, students not only identify issues, create investigations, and synthesize and communicate their results to local partners, they must also take action. These actions may take many forms, all of which can lead to improvements in water quality and in our resources.

Models for facilitating this type of student-driven learning in school and in the field will be shared, along with tools for developing these experiences in a variety of settings.

“Replacement of a Failed Passive Treatment System with the Remotely Monitored Lime Slurry Active Treatment System”, J.M. Dietz, Ph.D.

The Orcutt-Smail discharge is located near Corsica, Pennsylvania. The discharge is a major source of acid mine drainage (AMD) loading in the Little Mill Creek watershed, a tributary to Mill Creek (Jefferson & Clarion Counties). The AMD is a moderate flow (80 to 200 gpm) high acidity (500 to 700 mg/L as CaCO3) discharge with elevated iron (~200 mg/L), manganese (~70 mg/L), and aluminum (~10 mg/L) that is associated with a bond forfeiture surface mine. In 2008, a passive treatment system was constructed to provide permanent treatment of the AMD.  Within several years of operation, the passive treatment system failed, as indicated by decreasing flow through SAPS underdrains and increasing acidity and metal concentrations in the passive system effluent. An innovative lime slurry, active treatment plant was designed and installed at the site in 2014, in cooperation with PADEP (Knox District Mining Office), Headwaters Charitable Trust, and the Mill Creek Coalition. The active treatment system consists of a lime slurry storage & feed system, a pre-aeration & oxidation reactor, and a control system.  The control system includes electrical components to operate the various mechanical components, and a unique cellular & internet-based remote monitoring & alarm system. The overall treatment system also utilized converted and existing passive treatment units for settling and handling of metal solids (i.e., sludge). The Orcutt-Smail active treatment plant began operation in November 2014 and has provided continuous operation since startup. The presentation will provide a discussion of the various components of the treatment system (including the remote monitoring system), treatment performance, and characteristics/reuse of the solids produced.

Request for Presentations

The conference planning committee is now requesting proposals for presentations. We encourage a wide range of topic submissions, including but not limited to:
• New abandoned mine drainage (AMD) treatment system technologies, tools, and products
• Construction case studies and lessons learned
• Land remediation, reforestation, and reuse
• Water quality monitoring
• Operations, maintenance, and rehabilitation of treatment systems
• Non-profit organization capacity issues
• Community involvement, special events, education, and outreach
• Coal mining history and heritage preservation
• Mapping, drones, equipment, and other helpful new technologies
• Legislative updates and concerns at all levels of government
• Economic redevelopment, health and safety, and quality of life topics
• Climate change, energy, and AMD

In the past, we have had such varied topics as the history of baseball in coal patch towns, prevention of Lyme disease, preserving collieries, computer software designed technologies, reauthorization of the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Fund, economic benefits of reclamation, abandoned mine land issues in Germany and Bolivia, the establishment and support of non-profit organizations, and everything in between. If your topic can be related to what our community does, we would love to consider it for the conference!

If you are interested in making a presentation, please submit an abstract for review. Submissions should be no longer than one page in length and include the presenter’s name, title, and organization. Please also include a 1-paragraph bio for the presenter. Submissions and questions should be emailed to Anne Daymut at