I-99 acid-rock solution will delay completion at Skytop until 2006

PENNDOT’s plan to deal with the acid-rock drainage problems in the Skytop section of construction work for Interstate 99 is expected to cause a delay in the completion of the project in that area.
However, the target date of 2007 for the overall completion of the I-99 project designed to run from near the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Bedford to Interstate 80 in Bellefonte should not be affected.
The transportation agency and its environmental consultant have been working on the acid-rock drainage issue for much of 2004.
It requested an additional week to offer its proposal to the state’s Department of Environmental Protection before offering the permanent solution proposal yesterday.
Last fall, PENNDOT was cited by the State’s Department of Environmental Protection after the discovery of contamination in Buffalo Run.
The acid-bearing rock, known as pyrite, is mineral which isn’t an environmental hazard below the ground.
However, when it comes in contact with air and water, the sulfurous material becomes sulfuric acid due to oxidation.
It can dissolve metals which can contaminate streams and groundwater.
“The plan as we have submitted it offers six different alternatives with a preferred alternative solution,” said Marla Fannin, spokesperson for PENNDOT’s District Two.
Regardless of which plan is used to solve the problem discovered during construction work in Patton Township, Centre County, it ultimately will come with an additional cost to the taxpaying public.
“Costs on those (the proposed plans) range from just under $10 million to around $12 million,” Fannin told The Daily Herald. “The preferred alternative has a price tag of $9.7 million.
“Our preferred recommendation to resolve the acid-rock drainage situation involves to a great degree the removal of material from most of the sites involved,” said Fannin. “There will be some encapsulation. We do have situations were we will need to continue to monitor different locations before we are able to make recommendations on what to do.
“The preferred alternative will call for the removal of the majority of the (pyritic) material to a location, an abandoned mine location in Centre County, just outside of Philipsburg,” explained Fannin.
She also explained some of the differences in the proposed plans which created a variance in the projected costs of the different alternatives.
“To some degree the alternatives are similar, they differ in regard to location of disposal,” according to Fannin. “Depending on what location you are going to determines whether or not you need to do any kind of site preparation which affects costs. Also, the cost of actually hauling the material would fluctuate from alternative to alternative.”
“There are roughly 600,000 cubic yards which we are looking at removing or encapsulating,” said Fannin.
She also noted that work will be delayed in the affected area.
“We are going to see a delay on the two sections involved with the acid-rock drainage,” said Fannin. “We had originally planned to open those sections late in ‘04 or early ‘05. (Now), with the preferred alternative, we are looking to be complete by June of ‘06, with all the other alternatives, probably September of ‘06.
“What we need to do in regard to the acid-rock drainage will not ultimately affect the overall schedule of the I-99 corridor and we still intend and expect to complete it in 2007,” said Fannin.
Work in another section of the project, between Bald Eagle in Blair County and Port Matilda in Centre County is expected to proceed without delay and be finished in 2007, according to Fannin. The eight-mile stretch along Bald Eagle Ridge is the last section of the Interstate 99 project. When that section of construction is completed, I-99 will be a four-lane highway from Bedford to Bellefonte.
A copy of the remediation proposal has been posted on PENNDOT’s web site at Copies of the plan will also be available for review at several locations in Centre County and at PENNDOT’s district office in Hollidaysburg in Blair County. PENNDOT’s District Two office in Clearfield County can be reached at 814-765-0424.
DEP spokesperson Dan Spadoni said the plan is currently under review, and the Department has no additional comment at this time. A copy of the plan is also available on the DEP’s web site.
A public meeting regarding the plan will be held at the Mount Nittany Middle School in Boalsburg on June 1 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Written public comments may also be submitted by June 24.