The panel explained that Abandoned Mine Drainage (AMD) is an opportunity that comes with some risks. Mine drainage comes from different sources: active mines (treated discharge); closed mines (treated discharge); closed mines that have been forfeited by the mining company (EPA is treating the water using the mining company's bond); and much older mines that are exempt from drainage management. Large quantities of water are available from abandoned mines that are in close proximity to the Marcellus Shale.
Accessing and treating AMD reduces polluted watersheds and reduces the need for clean water supply to support fracking. This eliminates unmanaged AMD and prevents acid, iron and other suspended solids from reaching the water supply. This can be done at a reasonable cost and builds goodwill in the community.
Risks include destabilization of the mine and additional impact on stream water supply and the watershed.
Watershed groups want to work with the gas industry to have their water fixed. AMD comes from the unregulated mining practices of the past. Successful treatment brings streams back to life. The extracted iron can be sold. Water flow can generate electricity.
There are liability concerns by watershed groups. Regulations may discourage voluntary abandoned mine reclamation. Mine drainage is not all the same and some require careful planning and treatment. These groups need the support and experience of the industry. Treatment of AMD needs to continue in perpetuity.