Allegheny Mineral Corporation's proposed 252-acre surface mine has residents concerned about the potential disruption to their health and daily lives.

"The chemicals and the diesel fumes ... the way the wind blows it's going to be hitting a lot of families," said Lynn Merlino, who lives near the potential mining area.

The complete application for Mine 57, submitted to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection in March, is for mining for Vanport limestone and, incidentally, Lower and Middle Kittanning coal if the permit is granted. A map attached to a fact sheet provided by the Department shows a stretch of residential land about one mile southeast of Princeton between Houk Road and Shaffer Road in Slippery Rock Township for its potential mining grounds.

Chairman of the Slippery Rock Township supervisors Jack Armagost declined to comment on the potential mining project.

Merlino, who is a member of Friends of McConnells Mill State Park Inc., a local environmental nonprofit group, says residents in the surrounding area voiced their concerns about their property value, well contamination, fugitive dust, chemicals, diesel fumes, noise, hours of operation and wildlife at a July 30 public meeting at Moraine State Park. 

"One of the biggest things with fugitive dust are small particles. That's easier for us to take into our lungs," Merlino said. "Limestone is used in cement, so when those limestone particles get into your wet lungs, it becomes like a cement." 

"I'm not aware of any specific evidence ... showing that it's been negatively impacting the park," said Dustin Drew, park manager of Moraine and McConnells Mill state parks. "I would want to see some type of evidence saying that this is direct or if there's some way to link it indirectly, but to my knowledge, that's never occurred."

According to the department, an elevated review letter was sent to Mineral on July 29 noting "outstanding deficiencies comments." The department is waiting for a response from the company with corrections to the application, which will need to be post marked by Monday. The public can expect a decision concerning the permit this fall.

Residents have until Wednesday to send written responses to the Department of Environmental Protection in Knox to submit their concerns about the potential project. Submitted letters should include the residents' name, address and their objections.

The proposed project lists seven unnamed tributaries for their mining drainage needs. The tributaries flow into the Slippery Rock Creek, which is about 50 miles long and flows into the Connoquenessing Creek.

The company lists three variances, which are not required to be requested by law, on their application:

•Six stream encroachments on the unnamed tributaries.

•Direct impact on emergent wetland, scrub-shrub wetlands and forested wetlands.

•A mitigation development plan to include scrub-shrub wetlands and forested wetlands.

Scrub-shrub wetlands are described as woody vegetation less than 20 feet tall. They include tree shrubs and smaller-type shrubs. 

"The application seeks exemptions in order to blast and strip mine closer to 18 wetlands than permitted by current regulations," said Nancy Bergey, treasurer of Friends of McConnells Mill, in a letter to The News.

"(The mine) would disrupt wildlife, including nesting bald eagles and brown trout habitat," Bergey said.

According to the Department of Environmental Protection in Knox, the mine has never been operational, although there have been other mining activities in the surrounding area, near Wilson Road and Mt. Furnace Road, which has been active since October 2009. 

Allegheny Mineral Corporation was incorporated in 1953, and has mines in communities like Murrinsville and Harrisville.

Friends of McConnells Mill State Park is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit formed in 1999 who aim to protect the park from influences that may negatively effect it. 

McConnells Mill State Park is 2,346 acres, which includes a gristmill, covered bridge and waterfalls. 

"We're bound to protect the resources within the park, and work with DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) to ensure that if permits are approved, that the mining companies are following their permits and following the best management practices," Drew said. "As far as I know, that has been occurring."

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