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Monastery Run Improvement Project to Mark 20 Years with Symposium Nov. 8

Public Relations
Posted: Tuesday Oct 29, 2013

Oct. 29, 2013

An educational symposium will mark the 20th anniversary of the Monastery Run Improvement Project at Saint Vincent College from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, Nov. 8 in the Luparello Lecture Hall in the Sis and Herman Dupré Science Pavilion on the campus of Saint Vincent College. Admission is free and open to the public but advance reservations are requested.

The symposium will feature talks by Dr. Cynthia Walter, professor of biology at Saint Vincent College, “Stream Assessment: Did the Monastery Run Improvement Project Restore Our Local Streams?”; Bob Hedin of Hedin Environmental, “Treatment of Alkaline Fe-contaminated Deep Mine Discharges 20 Years after Monastery Run”; Susan Huba, executive director of the Loyalhanna Watershed Association, “Abandoned Mine Drainage Update”; and Scott Roberts, retired deputy secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, “Reflections from Monastery Run: The Optics of Watershed Restoration.”

Also included will be a review of the history of the Monastery Run Improvement Project, a poster presentation and site tours of area abandoned mine drainage projects including Monastery Run Improvement Project wetlands #2 and #3 and the Saint Vincent Gristmill, Monastery Run Improvement Project wetland #1 and the sludge basin, and the Loyalhanna Watershed Association’s upper Latrobe abandoned mine drainage treatment system.

Br. Norman W. Hipps, O.S.B., president of Saint Vincent College, who encouraged the project’s initiation and ongoing implementation, will make remarks.

Br. Norman recalls the initial catalyst for the project. “More than 20 years ago, Linda McKenna Boxx of the Katherine Mabis McKenna Foundation called and asked what we could do about the orange stream in downtown Latrobe,” Br. Norman commented. “That led to the formation of a steering committee comprised of Dr. Caryl Fish of the Saint Vincent faculty, Bob Hedin, Lysle Sherwin of the Loyalhanna Watershed Association, Wesley Gordon of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, David Dzombak, SVC’79, of Carnegie Mellon University and Greg Phillips of the Westmoreland Conservation District. Fr. Earl J. Henry, O.S.B., of Saint Vincent Archabbey’s Wimmer Corp., was instrumental in bringing the group together and making arrangements for the wetlands to be located on Saint Vincent land. We are grateful to all of these partners and funding sources which made this project possible including area charitable foundations, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources.”

The symposium is being coordinated by Dr. Caryl L. Fish, associate professor of chemistry at Saint Vincent College, and Beth Bollinger, assistant director of environmental education at the Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve at Saint Vincent.

“It has been 20 years since the project began and we held our first symposium,” Fish commented. “We began with a goal of exploring the technical, financial and operational feasibility of constructing artificial wetlands and other passive treatments to reduce the problem of abandoned mine drainage contaminating local waterways. The overall goal was to restore the water quality of the Loyalhanna Creek which flows through downtown Latrobe. It was designated as a high priority on Pennsylvania’s degraded watershed list. The most visible and severe problem was the discharge from abandoned deep mines seeping into two streams, Fourmile and Monastery Run, which flow into the Loyalhanna. The first symposium led to the development of the Loyalhanna Creek Mine Drainage Coalition which was composed of more than 50 members who oversaw the design and function of the Monastery Run Improvement Project. What began as an informal coalition of community organizations and institutions and county, state and federal government agencies has become an effective abandoned mine drainage treatment site, field demonstration site and experiential classroom.”

“There are three facets to the project’s accomplishments,” Fish added. “We have a cleaner Loyalhanna Creek and the surrounding watershed; we have accomplished a lot in terms of education about mine drainage with students now majoring in environmental science with a full curriculum; and, because we were one of the first programs to develop this passive treatment wetlands, others have been inspired to build wetlands throughout western Pennsylvania. We are still doing mine drainage treatment and education so this symposium will be an opportunity to bring everyone together to celebrate and evaluate what has been accomplished.”

“The wetlands were built to last 20 years so there are only about three or four more years until we reach that milestone,” Bollinger noted. “In September 2012 we emptied wetland #1 and removed the sludge and put it into a drying basin. Similar operations are planned for the other wetlands as they age. When people see the orange water, what they are actually seeing is iron oxide that has precipitated out in the ponds with clean water flowing into the stream.”

Further details and registration requests may be directed to Bollinger at 724-537-4571 or beth.bollinger@stvincent.edu.

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PR2013-610