NBAC Director Testifies On BUILD Act before U.S. Senate Committee

Written by Andrew Stacy on . Posted in Blog, News

Senate Hearing 2On March 2, Patrick Kirby, director of the Northern West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center at West Virginia University, provided testimony on the BUILD Act before the U.S. Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works. The hearing focused on Senate Bill 1479, Brownfields Utilization, Investment, and Local Development (BUILD) Act of 2015, Senate Bill 2446, Improving Coal Combustion Residuals Regulation Act of 2016 and Discussion Draft of Good Samaritan Cleanup of Orphan Mines Act of 2016.

In his testimony, Kirby discussed why the BUILD Act matters. Specifically, he noted that the BUILD Act expands the eligibility of certain types of property to apply for brownfields funds, expands eligible applicants to include non-profit organizations which are often the entity in the community best suited best suited to help move the project forward and eliminated the prohibition of the use of the funds to cover administrative costs, which can be a large task.

Watch Kirby’s testimony here (his testimony begins at 1:21:30), or you can find a pdf version here.

NBAC Associate Director Joins Leadership West Virginia Class of 2016

Written by Andrew Stacy on . Posted in Blog, News

Staton_Carrie 2

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Northern West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center (NBAC) Associate Director Carrie Staton was one of 55 leaders from across the state to accept invitations to participate in the 2016 Class of Leadership West Virginia. Candidates were selected from a list of nominations that was submitted in late 2015.

Staton, who has worked for the NBAC for four years and recently stepped into the role of Associate Director, is excited for the opportunity to expand her knowledge through the Leadership West Virginia program.

“What drew me to the program was the emphasis not only on leadership skills but also on how those skills can be used to make a greater impact in West Virginia,” said Staton.

Staton, a native of Mullens, has a strong love for and commitment to West Virginia. After receiving her Bachelor of Arts in Nonprofit Administration from Bethany College, she worked briefly in park revitalization in underserved neighborhoods in Washington, D.C. before the draw of the mountains pulled her home to West Virginia to pursue a Master of Public Administration degree at West Virginia University. Since then, she has worked at the NBAC to help communities capture the maximum economic, environmental, and social benefit from the remediation and reuse of brownfields through a collaborative redevelopment process.

“At the end of the day, what’s most important to me is that I’ve made a difference, that I’ve helped the state and its communities improve for the benefit for those who live here,” said Staton. “I’m excited to find ways the relationships and knowledge I’ll build through Leadership West Virginia can help me better serve those communities across the state.”

Leadership West Virginia is now in its 25th year as the statewide education and leadership development program in West Virginia. The eight-month program identifies emerging leaders from a variety of employers throughout West Virginia and enhances their knowledge not only of the challenges facing the state, but also the state’s unique attributes and diversity. Recognizing that the cultivation of new leadership is of utmost importance to West Virginia’s future prosperity and progress, Leadership West Virginia works to develop and motivate a cross-section of leaders who will use their talents and abilities to inspire others and to foster a new spirit of energy, enthusiasm and vitality throughout the state. LWV is affiliated with the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce.

“Each year, the class participants are selected from a list of top-quality applicants from around the state. Individuals are selected into the program because they demonstrate leadership skills and experiences in civic activities and in their professional careers,” said Pam Farris, executive director of Leadership West Virginia. “We continue to see an increase in the number of applicants each year and we are very pleased with the diversity of candidates in the 2016 class.”

About the Northern West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center
The Northern West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center is a program of the West Virginia Water Research Institute at the National Research Center for Coal and Energy at West Virginia University and serves the northern 33 counties in West Virginia.

WVU Leads Efforts to Study Recovery of Rare Earth Elements From Coal Mining Waste

Written by Derek Springston on . Posted in Blog, Media, News

West Virginia could become one of the country’s significant sources for rare earth elements, the “vitamins of modern industry,” without the expense or environmental cost of opening new mines.

Last week, the United States Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory, or NETL, selected West Virginia University to conduct a $937,000 research project in support of DOE’s program to Recover of Rare Earth Elements from Coal and Coal Byproducts.

Rare earth elements, or REEs, are chemical elements in Earth’s crust that are essential ingredients in modern technologies such as cell phones, rechargeable batteries, DVDs, GPS equipment, medical equipment and many defense applications.

Demand for REEs continues to grow, but mining and processing these elements is expensive and difficult. Conventional rare earth extraction grinds large volumes of hard rock and removes rare earths through acid extraction. The process is energy intensive, disturbs large areas of pristine land, and generates large volumes of toxic tailings.

Because of this and the cost of developing domestic sources, the U.S. imports nearly all of its REEs.

There are other methods for obtaining REEs. Some coal-related waste streams are enriched with REEs, sparking interest in evaluation of these wastes as a potential domestic supply.

WVU’s project, “Recovery of Rare Earth Elements from Coal Mine Drainage,” brings together academia, state regulators and industry to collaborate on finding a successful recovery technology for total REEs from acid mine drainage, or AMD.

Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute and principal investigator for the project, and co-investigators Xingbo Liu, professor of mechanical engineering, and Aaron Noble, professor of mining engineering, will test different sources of AMD solids and methods for extracting valuable REEs.

The team has already identified solids precipitated during treatment of AMD, as an enriched source of REEs, particularly the more valuable, heavy elements.

AMD is a waste stream generated by Appalachian coal mining that is created when sulfide minerals in rocks are exposed to air and water. Active coal mines are required to treat this water resulting in the precipitation of AMD solids which must be disposed of.

In Pennsylvania and West Virginia alone, it is estimated that AMD generates more than 45,000 tons of total REEs per year or about three times the current U.S. demand for total REEs.

The team will work with industry partners Mepco Inc., Consol Energy and Rosebud Mining as well as the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Special Reclamation to not only identify enriched AMD solids but to develop ways to integrate rare earth extraction with their current mine drainage treatment operations.

WVU’s approach capitalizes on the fact that acid mine drainage is an existing source of acid which extracts rare earths from coal-related rock. As the coal industry treats this acid water to meet regulatory requirements it generates huge volumes of solids which require disposal.

“Those solids are our feedstock,” Ziemkiewicz said. “And in a sense, it’s already pre-processed.”

Liu and Noble will develop ways to further concentrate REEs so that it can supply the metal refining industry.

No new mines will be needed to generate this domestic supply of rare earths, and rejects will be returned to the AMD treatment plant’s disposal system requiring a negligible environmental footprint.

“Successful development of this concept will generate an additional revenue stream for the coal industry, create jobs and incentivize acid mining treatment,” Ziemkiewicz said. “At the same time it will reduce U.S. reliance on foreign supplies of rare earth elements.”

The research team acknowledges NETLfor its support of this project and looks forward to working with NETL’s scientists in advancing this technology.

-WVU-

pz-ms/12/14/15

CONTACT: University Relations/News
304.293.6997

– See more at: http://wvutoday.wvu.edu/n/2015/12/14/wvu-leads-efforts-to-study-recovery-of-rare-earth-elements-from-coal-mining-waste#sthash.PFTtJTwJ.dpuf

Additional WVU testing confirms acceptable levels of radioactivity in drinking water at Clyde Mine

Written by Andrew Stacy on . Posted in Blog, News

Treated affluent from Clyde Mine discharging into Tenmile Creek, Greene County, PA.

Treated affluent from Clyde Mine discharging into Tenmile Creek, Greene County, PA.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Additional testing by the West Virginia Water Research Institute (WVWRI) at Clyde Mine on Tenmile Creek shows acceptable radium levels in drinking water.

Tenmile Creek is the primary watershed within Greene County Pennsylvania, passing through Waynesburg before joining the Monongahela River in Clarksville, Pennsylvania.

“We looked hard and just could not find any evidence of harmful radiation levels,” said Dr. Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the WVWRI.

Methodology

WVWRI sampled the Clyde Mine discharge on Tenmile Creek six times over a two-week period beginning in late July to make sure the results were representative. That data showed that the highest minimum detectable concentration (MDC) of alpha radiation was 2.95 pCi/L, while the drinking water limit is 5 pCi/L. The reported values averaged 0.74 pCi/L.

In April 2014, sSampling done by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) in April 2014 indicated high levels of radium in discharges to Tenmile Creek from the abandoned Clyde Mine and coal refuse piles farther upstream near Waynesburg and another at the Cumberland Mine on Whiteley Creek.

“The radium numbers were high but not consistent with the much lower gross alpha radiation readings,” said Ziemkiewicz. “Radium is an alpha emitter and the gross alpha reading should be the sum of all of the alpha emitters.

Ziemkiewicz said there were to other problems with the data.

“It wasn’t clear from the 2014 PADEP data which analytical method was used to determine radium concentrations, and the MDC were not provided,” he said. “MDC tells you the lowest data value that can be reported with confidence. For example, if the MDC is 100 all you can say is that the actual value is somewhere between zero and 100.”

Ziemkiewicz explained that if the reading is 50 and the MDC is 100 you still can only say that the actual value is somewhere between zero and 100.

“This is extremely important to remember when evaluating radiochemical results,” he said. “When we saw these inconsistencies we decided to resample and reanalyze using approved EPA methods. We guessed that PADEP determined radium by gamma spectroscopy.”

According to Ziemkiewicz, that method is used mainly as a screening tool for solid wastes.
“It’s cheap but not very precise when used for water samples,” said Ziemkiewicz. “It may be the best method for undiluted Marcellus flowback water where interfering ions like strontium and barium measure in the thousands of milligrams per liter. But the Clyde mine discharge had zero barium and only 6.6 milligrams per liter of strontium, so interference is not an issue. That’s why we used the more precise radiochemistry methods.”

In June of this year, WVWRI sampled the same sites that PADEP had sampled in 2014 and sent the water samples to PACE Analytical Services in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, for analysis. PACE is a state-certified radiochemistry lab. The radium results came in well below EPA drinking water levels.

The only parameter that was close to the drinking water limit was gross alpha, which was 13.4 pCi/L. The drinking water limit is 15 pCi/L. However, the total dissolved solids were high in this sample. So in addition to EPA method 900.0, WVWRI asked PACE to use EPA method 7110C, which is recommended for high-total dissolved solids water.

Providing research data for residents

Funded by the Colcom Foundation, the WVWRI’s Three Rivers QUEST (3RQ) REACH program provided the means to initiate this targeted study for radiologicals on Tenmile Creek in response to residents’ concerns.

The 3RQ program brings together academic researchers with grassroots organizations by collecting field water-quality data and information from local water monitoring groups that are in tune with the health of their local watersheds.

“Several watershed organizations have been monitoring along Tenmile Creek. When their field instruments suggest something unusual we can respond with more detailed chemical analysis. Testing for radiologicals is expensive and beyond the means of most citizens,” said Melissa O’Neal, 3RQ project manager. “Results from this targeted study provide reliable data to local residents who are concerned about the quality of their streams.”

The 3RQ program has been monitoring the mouth of Tenmile Creek since 2009 for a suite of chemical parameters. Results from WVWRI and its partner grassroots water monitoring organizations is shared with the public on the program’s website, 3RiversQUEST.org.

CONTACT: Andrew Stacy, West Virginia Water Research Institute
304-293-7085; ASTACY@mail.wvu.edu