Friday, September 22, 2023

DEP Launches Air Monitoring Study in Western Schuylkill County Amid Environmental Concerns

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is conducting an air monitoring initiative near an active mine reclamation project in Western Schuylkill County. 

The purpose of this study is to assess the levels of particulate matter in the air, addressing concerns raised by local residents about fly ash and other materials generated during excavation and remediation work near the Rausch Creek Generation facility.

This environmental evaluation, which includes a portion of an Environmental Justice (EJ) Area, places an emphasis on community involvement. 

DEP Secretary Rich Negrin affirmed the department's commitment to transparency, stating, "The Department is committed to being transparent with residents about what is in the air they breathe and how we monitor any contaminants that are present near their homes. We have made environmental justice a priority in this Administration and the Department will continue to engage with residents in Schuylkill County as we conduct this critically important air monitoring."

The study will deploy dust fall jars at 4-5 separate locations in proximity to Rausch Creek, collecting samples over a 30-day period. These samples will undergo analysis for insoluble materials, followed by microscopic evaluation to identify specific particulates and their potential sources. Results will be compared against the state-wide air quality standard for settled particulate matter, which stands at 43 T/MI2/M (tons per square mile per month).

Since the study area encompasses an EJ area, the DEP's recently implemented EJ Policy necessitates an augmented public participation process. This decision to conduct the study was prompted by requests from local communities impacted by the project, including Frailey Township, Porter Township, Tremont Township, Tremont Borough, and the Good Springs and Donaldson areas.

Simultaneously, the DEP's Pottsville District Mining Office is reviewing three permit applications submitted by Rausch Creek Land, L.P. The applications propose reclamation efforts in Tremont, Hegins, and Porter Townships, encompassing activities such as strip mining with blasting, site boundary reconfiguration, and roadway construction. Notably, Rausch Creek is already authorized for coal ash placement, with no pending modifications under review.

The air monitoring study is expected to conclude in 2024. DEP will release the findings at that time.