Consol ordered to repair Ryerson

MORE than five years after the Ryerson Station Dam in Pennsylvania was damaged, the state’s Department of Environmental Protection is ordering Consol Energy – owner of a longwall mine operating under the dam – to pay millions for repairs.
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Duke Lake at Ryerson Station Dam in Greene County, Pennsylvania.

Donna Schmidt

The DEP announced Thursday it had concluded a two-part investigation of the dam in Green County, which it said was damaged by longwall mining at Consol’s Bailey mine in the summer of 2005.

The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which oversees the dam as well as the Ryerson Station State Park, filed its initial complaint in early 2008.

"When any activity damages a vital component of our infrastructure – not to mention, a valuable natural resource – the responsible party must be held accountable," DEP deputy secretary for mineral resources management Scott Roberts said.

"In this case, we are ensuring that Consol will compensate DCNR for all that it takes to restore these important structures and ensure this dam is safe for visitors and nearby residents."

The order requires Consol to pay the DCNR a total of $US1,042,625 for already-incurred costs and millions more for completing the repairs and obtaining necessary permits (Consol said DEP estimates are as high as $20 million).

“In addition, Consol will be responsible for contracting with a DCNR-approved independent project manager – at the company's expense – and for paying for the repair work,” the DEP said, noting that the project manager would also determine a completion schedule.

The agency claimed that from December 2004 through to 2006, Consol and Bailey mine operator Consol Pennsylvania Coal longwall mined two panels close to the dam. The 515-foot concrete structure sustained damage in 2005 that “jeopardized its integrity”, and shortly after the DEP breached the water body and removed a portion of the spillway to prevent the reservoir from refilling.

The dam breaching also drained the 62-acre Duke Lake which the dam created, DEP officials noted.

Consol responded to the report shortly after the DEP’s announcement and told ILN it intended to pursue appeal.

“Consol Energy continues to maintain that mining activities at its Bailey mine near the area in 2005 did not cause damage to Ryerson Dam which would have resulted in substantial leaks that necessitated the state DCNR and DEP to breach the concrete dam and drain Duke Lake,” the company said.

“Mine subsidence did not cause damage to the Ryerson Park Dam. In fact, Consol was operating its Bailey mine in the area with an approved mining permit issued by the state DEP, which was based on sound engineering studies, including consideration by both DEP and Consol of any possible mining impacts on the dam at Ryerson Park.”

The producer said it had already appealed the agency’s findings on liability, and also intended to appeal the repair order. The appeal process will result in a completely new hearing on the issue.

While it steadfastly believes its mining activity did not cause the damage, Consol said it was willing to “pursue an amicable and reasonable solution to the issue” that was in the best interest of the local community.

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