Drilling

Megan Lehman, environmental community relations specialist, Williamsport, with the state Department of Environmental Protection, looks into a mine shaft where a fire was burning on Big Mountain in Trevorton.

TREVORTON — Eight boreholes were completed as of Monday atop Big Mountain in Zerbe Township, according to Megan Lehman, environmental community relations specialist, Williamsport, with the state Department of Environmental Protection.

“Several more are planned,” said Lehman. “Six-inch steel casing pipe is being installed in the boreholes to various depths, depending on what is encountered underground, and they will be used for future temperature monitoring or inspection with a borehole camera. As of this morning (Monday), all temperature readings taken in the boreholes have continued to reflect normal underground temperatures.”

On June 4, the drilling subcontractor temporarily paused operations to assist another client with an emergency drinking water situation in New York state, Lehman said.

“We anticipate this pause in drilling will last approximately one week, and the primary contractor and DEP’s Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation (BAMR) will continue other onsite activities while the drilling subcontractor is away,” she said. “The pause in drilling provides a good opportunity to conduct other activities while the drill is idle and there is no potential issue for activities to conflict on the site. A borehole camera will be used starting Tuesday to attempt to gain more visual information about the underground situation. The contractor will also perform site cleanup and begin installing permanent locking caps on the boreholes.”

DEP intends to reclaim the abandoned mine to eliminate the potential for any future safety hazards or illegal dumping, said Lehman.

The boreholes are downhill on the north side of the mine slope opening inside of which household refuse, tires and potentially coal caught fire out of sight on April 24.

The slope opening is just steps behind the Coal Miner’s Cross Memorial erected atop the mountain immediately south of Trevorton.

DEP awarded the drilling contract to Northumberland Services, of Paxinos, for $313,150. The company subcontracted the drilling work to Frey Well Drilling of Erie County, New York, which has a specialty drill rig fit for the job.

Northumberland Services is a sibling company to Tri-County Spreading, which had been contracted to truck and dump water collected from a nearby pond into the mine slope — more than 2 million gallons.

The Northumberland County Commissioners at last week’s public meeting expressed their satisfaction with the state’s efforts.

“So far, everything seems to be positive at this point,” said Commissioner Joe Klebon. “The temperatures are coming back 40 to 50 degrees. That’s a good sign. That means there’s nothing hot below the surface. Temperatures are normal down there.”

While things are looking promising, Klebon said the county will remain in contact with state officials.

“The governor’s office has done a really good job at getting the money needed and getting the right people in the right places out there so this whole thing doesn’t turn out to be a catastrophe,” said Klebon. “If you’re living in that area, you’re a little bit on edge. People can relax a little bit knowing it’s being taken care of.”

The cause of the fire remains under investigation, said Klebon.

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