Lowber Passive Treatment System Gets Quick Repairs

Even passive wetland treatment systems need active maintenance from time-to-time.

And, recently, some “quick response” repairs were needed at the passive treatment system that removes iron oxide from Sewickley Creek in Lowber.

During an inspection of the Lowber site this spring, Rob Cronauer of the Westmoreland Conservation District and Bob and Ben Hedin of Hedin Environmental saw something abnormal — water was flowing over the berms that separate the individual holding ponds.

The overflowing water was saturating and beginning to erode the earthen berms, posing a serious risk to the integrity of the treatment system.  If not addressed in a timely fashion, this situation had the potential to cause the treatment system to fail.

A little sleuthing identified the problem – a buildup of iron sludge, plants, and debris was clogging some of the underground pipes and above-ground troughs that the water normally flows through as it travels from pond to pond.

Lowber overflowing berms
Water flowing over the earthen berms that separate the ponds caused them to become saturated and to begin to erode.  If left unattended, this situation could eventually have caused the treatment system to fail.

To make the needed repairs quickly, before the system was seriously damaged, the District applied for and received emergency funding from the Western Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation’s Quick Response Program.

The funding was used to hire Santella Excavating to remove the clogs from all the existing pipes and troughs…replace some of the underground pond water-transfer pipes with new, above ground concrete spillways…fix the eroded berms…clean out the emergency spillways…and even add steel grating to allow for foot traffic around one of the troughs.

Lowber new concrete troughs
Ninety feet of new concrete troughs were added between three of the ponds and between the last pond and the wetland.


Lowber pipe connection w buildup
During the maintenance work, fiberglass pipe connections were modified to make future cleaning easier.  Here, a piece of fiberglass connection that was removed shows the amount of iron buildup.
Lowber cleaning trough connection
Cleaning one of the newly opened up connections between existing troughs.

Repair work at Lowber was overseen by Hedin Environmental and completed this spring.

The total project cost was $21,630.  This included the $18,000 Quick Response Grant and $3,630 from the Sewickley Creek Watershed Association.  Project partners were the Western Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation, Westmoreland Conservation District, Hedin Environmental, Sewickley Creek Watershed Association, and Santella Excavating, LLC.

Ted Weaver Tom Keller and Chealse Walker
District Watershed Specialist Chelsea Walker (center) worked with Ted Weaver of Hedin Environmental (right) and Tom Keller of the Sewickley Creek Watershed Association to submit a Quick Response grant request to the Western Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation.


This passive treatment system of ponds and wetlands was built in 2006 to capture the iron-polluted water being discharged from the Marchand deep mine, and so keep it out of Sewickley Creek.

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