Summaries of general discussions with the PaDEP, first in 1991 with Reading Company, and again in 2004 with DiRenzo.
In March of 1991, Reading Company and Blythe Twp. officials met with Pa-DEP staff in Pottsville to discuss building a new dam and reservoir on Big Creek (near Moss Glen) to allow for coal mining at the Silver Creek Reservoir. The meeting came about as a result of Blythe Authority's need to fund several millions dollars worth of system improvements (mostly filtration plants). It is important to note that the water supply / mining proposal considered then is much different from what is proposed as part of today's opportunity. The most significant difference being that the 1991 proposal created much risk and uncertainty as to a continued supply of water. Today's opportunity utilizes only existing water sources of known quality and quantity; specifically, the Caparell Pit, Silver Creek, Moss Glen, and most significantly, the Borough of Tamaqua's water supply system. Tamaqua could supply more water (per day) to the Schuylkill valley than the Blythe Authority could from its existing sources. Additionally, today's opportunity offers the creation of a much larger reservoir from mining and reclamation, not simply a comparably sized reservoir prior to any mining begins. The cost difference between these approaches is tremendous, with today's approach costing far less and therefore maximizing overall profitability and revenue to Blythe Township.
In January 2004, the DEP's Pottsville Office hosted a meeting to provide certain regulatory officials an opportunity to understand more about DiRenzo's proposal to create a much larger reservoir by integrating mining and reclamation with earthen dam construction. The reaction from DEP mining officials was similar to that of 1991, in that permits could not be issued until an adequate continued water supply is approved and operational. No one opined that such mining and reservoir creation was an environmental or regulatory impossibility. If fact, one DEP official believed that entire mining and reservoir proposal held much promise, so long as a continued water supply is assured. The balance of the meeting raised and addressed relevant scientific and engineering issues. Again none of which created any sense of difficulty as mining and dam construction are well understood and very regulated everyday undertakings.
The only sense of impossibility came from the nebulous realm of legal and political science. Attorney Harry Brown, longtime spokesman and solicitor for the Blythe Authority, delivered a tirade that condemned the entire proposal and expressed his discontent with the DEP for even providing a forum to discuss or consider the possibilities. Brown cited past failed efforts to mine coal at Silver Creek and unsuccessfully attempted to convince the audience that these past failures preclude any chance for future success. A "historic title dispute" was also raised by Brown, despite a previous and final court ruling that clearly established who owns what around and under the Silver Creek Reservoir. Other than Attorney Brown, only the Authority's chairman, Joseph Turnitza, added any additional input on behalf of Blythe by stating "go dig a hole somewhere else".
Subsequent and more recent discussions with staff at the DEP's District Mining Office in Pottsville's resulted in similar estimations; in that although mining, reclamation, and reservoir creation at Silver Creek is certainly possible from a scientific and regulatory standpoint, moving forward with further consideration and evaluation would be expedited with the cooperation of Blythe Township's elected and appointed officials. And that brings the whole matter here to this website and an effort to inform the residents of Blythe Twp. so that a consensus could be formed as to whether or not elected and appointed officials should assist and cooperate with efforts to further evaluate this opportunity.