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Soil contamination will delay work on new Wellington park

Although the lifeless scene in the foreground looks like some sort of moonscape, it is actually the site of the future Wellington urban fishery. The clay mounds wth flags on them are markers to guide excavators so they can dig the 2.5 acre hole to the proper depth.

Sun Advocate associate editor

It turns out there's more to abandoned mine reclamation than removing junk coal, broken concrete and rusted steel.

Excavation at Wellington's old Knight-Ideal coal loadout site has now uncovered a stratum of soil contaminated with diesel fuel.

That means development work on the city's new park and urban fishery has to be suspended temporarily.

"It's a bump in the road," said Chris Rohrer, reclamation specialist with the state's Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program.

He explained that engineers must now determine the extent of the contaminated zone and devise a remediation plan. Once that's done and approved, the state will redefine the scope of work and revise the contractor's work order.

"The most optimistic outlook for completion is now the end of July, most likely the end of August," Rohrer said.

The contamination won't kill the project. Rohrer explained that the simplest acceptable remediation could be to spread the soil on an isolated spot and allow evaporation and bacterial action to take their course over a year or so. The city would have to agree with that plan.

Remedial action is also eligible for federal Office of Surface Mining funding, Rohrer said. OSM funds the state's reclamation program.

There is at least a silver lining in this cloud of delay, however. Rohrer explained that the later completion of site preparation will put the seeding of the area into late summer or early fall.

That's better because the sprouts won't wither under the summer sun.

Justin Hart, assistant regional fisheries manager for the Division of Wildlife Resources, said the division will stock the pond with catchable fish when it is filled with water.

Species will include trout, and probably bass and bluegill. The DWR has stocked the county fairgrounds fishing hole with catfish, and that is a possibility at Wellington, too.

The pond site and surrounding acreage is part of federal/state reclamation of the old Knight-Ideal coal loadout facility. During the years of operation, the land became contaminated with fragments of coal, spilled fuel, chunks of concrete and steel from the structures.

Using federal money, the state's Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program is being handled by the Division of Oil, Gas and Mining. The total cost is more than $1.2 million, and the pond represents about a tenth of that amount. DWR is providing roughly $40,000 for the fishery and the Carbon County Recreation/Transportation Special Service District is investing $80,000.

Wellington City owns the property, but the Service District agreed to commit funds because people from outside city limits will also benefit from the recreational site. In the future, Wellington intends to transform the whole 17-acre property into a city park, complete with baseball diamonds, walking trails and picnic area.

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