During the planning and construction of the Ghost Town Trail, it became obvious that the Blacklick Creek was severally polluted by acid mine drainage. A group of local residents (Joan Hawk, Jim Lafontaine, Janis Long, and Ted Pluchinsky) gathered to discuss what could be done to clean up the streams. As a result of these meetings, Blacklick Creek Watershed Association (BCWA) was formed in 1993, as a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization.
At inception, the primary focus was addressing the problems of acid mine drainage (AMD). BCWA’s first President, Jim Lafontaine, lead us through our early, formative first five years (1993-1998) laying the organizational foundation and structure, which was highlighted by the watershed hosting a statewide AMD conference in 1996. His tenure as president gave way to Dr. Robert Eppley (Environmental Scientist, Phd. Chemistry). Dr. Eppley became very instrumental in securing and managing a number of DEP Growing Greener and other grants, resulting in the construction of a series of successful passive AMD treatment systems. These efforts culminated in the watershed receiving the PaDEP Governors Award for Environmental Excellence. These systems remain in existence today and stand as Dr. Eppley’s legacy of being a tireless, environmental advocate for the Blacklick Creek Watershed Association.
BCWA worked with many diverse partners to complete several projects. Some of those partners include the DEP, PA Game Commission, PA Fish & Boat Commission, county officials, township officials, conservation districts, Indiana University of Pennsylvania students and faculty, utilities and coal mining companies.
Several in-depth water quality assessments have been conducted. The assessments have identified several areas of significant water impairment and suggestions on ways to remediate these problems. Documents prepared include “Blacklick Creek Watershed Assessment and Restoration Plan”; “South Branch Blacklick Creek Watershed Restoration Plan”, by BCWA in cooperation with the DEP; and “Phase II Watershed Assessment and Restoration Plan for the Upper Two Lick Creek Watershed” with principle investigator Dr. John Benhart, Jr., Department of Geography and Regional Planning, Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
BCWA is committed to reduce the effects of AMD in the watershed. The Association has completed 13 mine drainage treatment and reclamation projects in the Blacklick Creek watershed. Through the funding of Pennsylvania Growing Greener Grant, EPA 319 Grants, Indiana County Conservation District Grants and grants from private industry, BCWA has constructed passive treatment systems along Coal Pit Run, South Branch Two Lick Creek, Two Lick Creek, Laurel Run, and Yellow Creek.
There are other positive things happening within the watershed. Indiana County Conservation District has installed a lime doser at the Lucerne 3A mine site. Work continues on the reclamation of abandoned mine lands. There are seven major refuse piles within the watershed. Re-mining of the Revloc refuse pile, Beth Energy Mine 31 refuse pile, Colver Mine refuse pile, and Loraine Mine refuse pile have been completed. Hopefully reclamation of the Lucerne Mine refuse piles will be completed by 2023. There are only two refuse piles to be re-mined, Vintondale and Tide. The Vintondale refuse pile is scheduled to be reclaimed in the spring of 2022. One of the most exciting developments is that the Pennsylvania DEP is preparing to construct a active treatment plant near Wehrum. The plant will treat the discharges from the Vinton #6 Mine, Redmill Mine and the Wehrum mine discharge. This will restore over 25 miles of Blacklick Creek.
All of the activity within the watershed has had a positive impact on the streams. The concentrations of iron and aluminum in many of the streams has been reduced. Acidity in many streams has been reduced, raising the pH of the streams. Macroinvertebrates are beginning to return in several streams. Sections of the major stream are visually improving.