Owen enjoys exploring the Dimeling Discharge bioreactor during a tour.
Kelly Williams, at right, explains the workings of the system.
Before: AMD flows from a deep mine. Photo courtesy Clearfield County Conservation District.
After: Water flows through the treatment system and settling pond.

Creativity Means Cleaner River Water

October 2014

Cleaner water will be entering the West Branch of the Susquehanna River thanks to a new, unique treatment system unveiled near Clearfield Creek in Clearfield County. 

Just 15 minutes from the river town of Clearfield, the Dimeling Discharge System treats flows of acidic, metals-laden water or acid mine drainage (AMD) that emanates from a deep coal mine on the site. It is the first bioreactor of its kind in the watershed and uses bacteria to remove metals and reduce acidity. The discharge flows through a mixture of woodchips, mushroom compost, hay, limestone, and settling basins before it continues into Clearfield Creek.

"Think of it as a confetti cake-like mixture of all of those ingredients, which makes the perfect conditions for bacteria to remove metals and help neutralize acidity," explains Rebecca Holler, Education Coordinator for Trout Unlimited's Eastern Abandoned Mine Program during a recent tour of the new facility.

AMD is a challenging environmental legacy resulting from years of unregulated mining that took place all over the state and the nation prior to the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977. AMD coats streams in orange sludge and disrupts healthy aquatic life.

Preliminary results from the new system indicate that is improving the pH of the water, as well as reducing heavy metals like iron and aluminum.

Before After
pH 6.1 mg/L 7.37 mg/L
Iron 33.7 mg/L 0.3 mg/L
Aluminum    0.20 mg/L 0.08 mg/L 

Source: Clearfield County Conservation District, reported September 2014

"We're really excited to see how this bioreactor system works in the long run and to begin to see the results and impacts downstream," says Kelly Williams with Clearfield County Conservation District who helped to lead the project. "One of the unique things about this type of bio system is that we were able to use local producers. The mushroom compost came from southeast PA, the woodchips from a local industry, and the hay from a local farmer right here in Clearfield County."

The Dimeling system complements other treatment systems already in place on along Clearfield Creek. The project was funded by a Growing Greener grant, as well as with funds from the PA DEP Surface Mining Conservation and Reclamation Act Grant Program administered by the Moshannon District Mining Office.

Learn more about efforts to clean up AMD in Clearfield County and how you can volunteer at, www.clearfieldcountywaters.com.  

To get involved locally, join the watershed association near you:  http://pawatersheds.org.