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DEP Authorizes Work to Extinguish Lackawanna Co. Mine Fire
Pennsylvania Ag Connection - 02/13/2020

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) announced Wednesday that work to extinguish the 14-year old Dolph Mine Fire in Olyphant, Lackawanna County will begin this spring. The project will eliminate a public health hazard that contributes to air pollution in the area.

The DEP recently awarded Earthmovers Unlimited, Inc. (Earthmovers) of Kylertown a $9.3 million contract for the work, known as the Sterry Creek South -- Dolph Mine Fire Reclamation Project.

The mine fire was discovered in 2006 and is believed to have started when open burning ignited garbage dumped illegally at the site. The project involves eliminating the 7-acre underground mine fire and coal refuse fires on the 15-acre mesa by utilizing an existing 150-foot deep isolation trench at the site to contain the fire and then quenching hot coal materials with a combination of water and fill material.

After the fire is extinguished, the area will be filled in with rock and soil and grass will be planted.

"After years of planning and engineering, we are pleased to begin the reclamation work that will address the public health and safety hazards associated with unreclaimed mine lands and the old fires on this site," said Jack Rokavec, division chief of DEP's Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation. "Two years ago, and just a few miles north of this project site, Earthmovers successfully completed another one of our projects -- the Powderly Creek underground mine fire. Earthmovers extinguished the fire and reclaimed the site on budget and on time. We are pleased to work with them again and anticipate a successful land reclamation effort."

The other part of the project involves reclaiming nearly 75-acres of abandoned mine land that was once part of the surface and underground mining operations at the Underwood Colliery and the neighboring Dolph Coal Company - Hannah Bell Slope Mine from the early 1900s through 1970, when mining operations ceased. That work includes re-excavating and re-grading more than 2-million cubic yards of overburden and rock materials and then filling the area with soil and planting grass.

The Sterry Creek South -- Dolph Mine Fire Project is a continuation of emergency work that the Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation and Enforcement started on the fire in 2006 when it dug the existing isolation trench at the site. The current project is expected to be completed by December 2022.

The project is financed through a combination of state and federal funds, including the Abandoned Mine Land (AML) Fund, which is funded by mining companies that pay a fee for every ton of coal mined.

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