May 15, 2009

Sewickley Creek in Westmoreland County and Bob Hedin’s Iron Oxide Recovery, Inc. receive the 2008 Governor's Award for Environmental Excellence.
This installment of the Western Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation Video Diaries by Andy McAllister, Watershed Coordinator, presents the award ceremony honoring the Sewickley Creek Watershed Association for all their hard work and success.
The two organizations became partners in 1999 when company owner Robert Hedin approached the association about supporting iron oxide recovery experiments at the abandoned Marchand Mine site in Lowber, Westmoreland County. The mine has discharged thousands of gallons-per-minute of iron-polluted water to Sewickley Creek for decades.
The collaboration has resulted in the Lowber site becoming Pennsylvania's first and only commercially successful resource recovery project. So far, the project has resulted in:
-- The recovery and recycling of 4,000 tons of wet iron sludge that would have otherwise been landfilled, avoiding at least $150,000 in disposal costs;
-- Successful treatment of 1,400-2,200 gallons per minute of mine water containing 70-85 milligrams per liter of iron;
-- Retention of about 400 tons of iron solids that otherwise would have ended up in Sewickley Creek and the Youghiogheny River;
-- Compliance of Sewickley Creek in Lowber (downstream of the system) with the DEP's in-stream iron limit of 1.5 milligrams per liter for the first time in at least 60 years; and
-- Successful incorporation of a 1.6-acre wetland into the system and creation of 13 acres of open water and wetland habitat that has already been colonized by fish, amphibians and aquatic insects, and has become a refuge for water fowl.
This treatment system can be maintained through eight hours of labor per month. Iron Oxide Recovery has taken on that responsibility and has committed to maintaining the system in the future. The company will fund its long-term maintenance with revenue produced by sludge recovery.