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Pennsylvania Plant Using Treated Mine Water to Generate Power

A new micro-hydro plant came online this week in Tioga County that uses acid mine water to generate electricity. The Antrim treatment plant is the first facility of its kind in the state, and will help to solve an existing water pollution problem by giving useful life to a treated waste product.

The idea of using micro-hydro turbines raises hopes for additional uses throughout the state in cleaning up acid mine drainage while generating electricity and revenues for operators.

The Babb Creek Watershed Association (BCWA) identified electric power production from the treatment plant discharge as one way to reduce the plant’s operating costs and generate an additional revenue stream for the Antrim Treatment Trust, which was established by the Antrim Mining Company before it went out of business.

When licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the power house will run both turbines and sell power into the electricity grid, eliminating $12,000 in annual power costs to the treatment plant and generating $10,000 per year in additional revenue for the Antrim Treatment trust.

Over the years, poor market returns in 2008; unanticipated costs; and water flows that were higher than originally anticipated put the Antrim Treatment Trust’s long-term financial stability in jeopardy, which led BCWA and DEP to start examining new ways to ensure the trust’s stability.

In 2008, BCWA received a $428,710 DEP Energy Harvest Grant to install two hydroelectric turbines on the Antrim treatment plant discharge. In May, BioMost Inc. completed construction, which includes an impoundment that collects treated water from the plant; 1,000 feet of pipeline; and a power house with two 20-kilowatt turbines.

The power house is currently operating one turbine to supply electricity to the plant, using about 400 gallons per minute (gpm). At times, the Antrim discharge has been known to reach 3,000 gpm.

Woodlands Bank, which administers the trust, and Waste Management Inc. were also involved in the project.

The original Antrim mine drainage treatment plant was built in 1991 and, in 1996, was replaced with a new plant that treats about 2,000 gpm of severe acid mine drainage. BCWA operates the plant under an agreement with DEP, and funds from the trust support treatment operations.

By 2002, the Antrim plant had cleaned up five miles of Pine Creek that had been impaired by acid mine drainage. It also became the impetus for a larger effort to treat all sources of abandoned mine drainage into Babb Creek. By 2009, 14 miles of Babb Creek had been removed from the impaired waters list.