Mine reclamation project continues in Plymouth Twp.
Oct. 24--PLYMOUTH TWP. -- It has been 55 years since coal was coming out of the Curry Hill-Avondale mine in Plymouth Twp. Another kind of work is taking place there now.
On Monday, workers were continuing an abandoned mine reclamation project that is nearing completion.
Stripping pits on the 88-acre site are filled in, mine entrances are blocked and a wetland is taking shape on the land. Elsewhere on the site is an industrial hemp trial plot.
The project is one of several overseen by the Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation.
The goal with this particular site was to eliminate the safety hazards posed by an abandoned mine in a place that has seen ATV riding, hunting and other recreation, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection.
Workers filled in abandoned pits with rock and soil that was removed years ago.
One of the first places DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell visited in his career with the agency was an abandoned mine in southern Pennsylvania. He checked out the site one day and revisited it later.
"When I went a month later, where it was barren, now things were growing. It was a remarkable transformation in the course of a month," he said.
On Monday, McDonnell was back at an abandoned mine as he toured the Plymouth Twp. project.
Most of the land will be owned by the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and they plan to return it to forest land, said Kim Snyder, director of the Wilkes-Barre office of the Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation.
Some of the land around the site is steep, the industrial relics of deep stripping pits. New grass is coming up around the area. The spot offers a view across the Susquehanna River into Nanticoke.
Reclamation in the area started in the 1980s and has progressed bit by bit across the hill, Snyder said.
The latest piece of work began in February 2015. Earthmovers Unlimited of Kylertown bid $2.7 million on the project.
A tour around the site showed a few highlights:
In one part of the work site, what looks like three large green cages cover openings that reach down into the earth.
The tops of tubes are visible. They go down about 40 feet.
They're front doors, so to speak, for bats that have made the mine their home.
Scientists have found the big brown bat, one of Pennsylvania's resident species, there, said site manager Paul Kinder.
The gates let bats in and out, but keep humans out of the homes.
Industrial hemp trial
In another section of the project, what looks like a rocky field is the site of an industrial hemp research trial, sponsored by the Pennsylvania Hemp Industry Council and Lehigh University.
Those organizations earned a permit to attempt a five-year project to see how hemp could reclaim mine sites like the one in Plymouth Twp., Snyder said.
The plants can grow taller than a person, but the seedlings there now are small enough to trample underfoot without noticing.
"Their first attempt was just to plow land and throw the seed in and walk away. And we've typically not found success with that on abandoned mine land sites," Snyder said. "Typically we need to put some soil amendments in the ground, some lime or fertilizer."
Wetlands and log piles
Alongside a gravel road built to access the work site is a two-acre wetland that is part of the project.
Retaining ponds will collect water that used to run downhill and into a neighborhood. The goal is to make a habitat that will support wildlife.
Another feature also offers habitat for animals -- large, long log piles that wind through different parts of the site.
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