Tioga River Restoration
Abandoned mine drainage (AMD) discharges have polluted the Tioga River for more than a century. Now the Susquehanna River Basin Commission (Commission), the PA Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP), the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), and the Tioga County Concerned Citizens Committee (TCCCC) are working to remediate the pollution to restore the Tioga.
In early 2022, the Commission awarded a nearly $1.5 million contract to Kleinfelder Inc. for the design of a AMD active treatment plant (ATP) to improve the quality of the Tioga River from Blossburg througho Mansfield and into Tioga Lake.
Once constructed, the ATP will actively treat five mine discharges. Three are currently degrading Morris Run, a tributary stream that flows into the Tioga River. Another is contaminating the nearby Fall Brook tributary. The collection and treatment system will also capture the largest mine discharge in the area – Coal Creek #5.
Treatment of these five discharges will not only restore the mainstem of the Tioga River, but will also restore parts of Morris Run, Fall Brook, and Tioga Lake. Downstream water quality improvements and benefits are expected to flow across state lines as the Tioga River runs from Pennsylvania north into New York state.
For specific water quality and watershed information, see the following Restoration Plan for Qualified Hydrologic Unit Determination that the Commission completed: Tioga River.
This project is funded in part by PADEP’s Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Economic Development Pilot Program. TCCCC plans to contribute funding raised under their “Save the River” effort to assist in the operation of the ATP.
For an interactive tour of the project please view the Tioga River Abandoned Mine Drainage Treatment Plant Project Story Map.
Press Release (May 12, 2022): Tioga River Abandoned Mine Drainage Treatment Plant Project Design Contract Awarded
Decades of Work
The Commission has been concerned about mine discharges in the Tioga River Watershed for more than two decades. Treatment and restoration of abandoned mine lands and affected waterways can take many years and millions of dollars. But allowing discharges to decline over time by natural depletion of the acid-forming minerals takes much longer, particularly for underground mines. Meanwhile, significant environmental impacts such as the elimination of aquatic life or pollution of our drinking water could continue for centuries without some form of abatement.
History of Mining in the Tioga River Watershed
Coal was discovered in the Tioga River Watershed near Blossburg in 1792. Settlement of the area was strongly driven by coal mining. Morris Run once had a population of 2,500 and was so crowded that houses were built on stilts across the town’s creek. Today just over 300 people call it home. Deep mining was the predominant form of mining in the watershed with its peak in 1886 with 1.4 million tons of coal produced. At the turn of the century, production from deep mines in Tioga County began to decline as a result of increased production in other parts of PA where coal was more economically mined. The start of WWII saw surface mining increase coal production until the early 1980s when it began to decline again. Mining eventually ceased in the area in 1990.
For an in-depth history and evaluation of problems left behind when mining deserted the watershed, see the Watershed Assessment and Remediation Strategy for Abandoned Mine Drainage in the Upper Tioga River Watershed report.