Orange to Clear Waters
Inside the Outdoors,March 31,
2017

Just recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down and having lunch with one of the scientists who was a student way back when the waters of Loyalhanna Creek were orange-colored and a solution had not been accomplished how to precisely clean up the problem.

Bill Stewart, Allison Park resident and jewelry storeowner, spelled out the particulars as to what went into cleaning up the stream as it looks today, describing how aeration of oxygen in addition to the depositing of lime in the water at certain points made a tremendous difference in developing clarity of water.

Under the leadership of Professor of Biology, Dr. Cynthia Walters, the group explored the possibilities of what turned out to be the Monastery Run Improvement Project that had its beginnings as far back as 1993.

In a release written October 29, 2013, by Don Orlando, public relations coordinator for St. Vincent College, a symposium was held Nov. 8, 2013, to bring to light the improvements that were made over a 20-year period to Loyalhanna Creek.

Initially, it was Linda McKenna Boxx of the Katherine Mabis McKenna Foundation who called Brother Norman Hipps, president of St Vincent College and asked what could be done about the orange stream in downtown Latrobe. “That led to the formation of a steering committee.” according to Brother Norman.

One of the members of this committee was Dr. Caryl Fish, associate professor of chemistry at St Vincent College. She stated, “It has been 20 years since the project began and we held our first symposium. 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 the waterways.

“The overall goal was to restore the water quality of the Loyalhanna Creek which flows throw downtown Latrobe. It was designated as a high priority on Pennsylvania’s degraded watershed list. The first symposium led to the development of the Loyalhanna Creek Mine Drainage Coalition that was composed of more than 50 members who oversaw the design of the function of Monastery Run Improvement Project.

“What began as an informal coalition of community organizations and institutions and county, state and federal government agencies,” she stated, “has become an effective abandoned mine drainage treatment site, field demonstration site and experimental classroom.”

She concluded, “We have a cleaner Loyalhannna 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 firsts programs to develop this passive treatment wetland, others have been inspired to build wetlands through Pennsylvania.”


- Paul J. Volkmann
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