DEP Attributes It To 'Acid Mine Drainage'

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CHURCHILL (KDKA) — Local creeks once filled with fish, tadpoles and other wildlife are now empty.

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The once clear water is now dirty and cloudy, and the people who live nearby suspect the creeks are being polluted.

The trees are budding, the sun is shining and shadows dance on the surface of the old Saw Mill Run Creek.

“It was beautiful,” said Churchill resident Cherie Spena. “There were actually gold fish.”

“We did have tiny tadpoles and things that lived in there at one time,” added Jim Kukic, also of Churchill.

But that was before.

Diane Kukic, of Churchill, now says of the creek: “It’s an eyesore, and we wonder what it is, and we have no clue.”

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

The folks who live along the creek have had the Health Department check the water.

“They gave me an A-Okay on it, but it always seems to be this color,” said Spena.

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“We didn’t get anything in writing, but they said that it was all right,” said Jim.

When you get down near the surface of the water and look through it, it almost looks like the rocks below have been glazed with something that looks like mayonnaise.

“That’s actually aluminum in the water that is coming out,” said Lauren Fraley, of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

The DEP says it’s hazardous to water life. But, Fraley says, “It’s not something that people need to be worried about. It just looks really alarming. It’s Acid Mine Drainage, or AMD.”

It’s the result of all the rain we’ve had since February, filling the mines we live above to the overflow point.

“That water is now coming out into area creeks and streams,” Fraley said.

The folks in Churchill and Wilkins Township aren’t alone. KDKA has gotten viewer complaints from Montour, Campbell’s Run and Raccoon Creek, which is orangish in color.

“Iron is a more orangish-red color,” says Fraley.

Every instance is investigated by the DEP, which can capture the mine runoff and filter it, but the process is very expensive. Instead, they look at the problems, and Fraley says they “prioritize based on threat to the environment and the public’s health and safety.”

“It really ends up just being a question of funding,” adds Fraley.

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That said, the DEP wants anyone seeing odd-colored creeks to report them so they can be evaluated.