COAL TOWNSHIP - Approximately 74 acres of hazardous, abandoned strip mine land, southwest of the Northumberland County Career and Technology Center, will soon be reclaimed.

Crews began staging heavy equipment last week on a dirt road across from the Coal Township Recycling Center, off Venn Access Road. The eastern-boundary of the project area is located just west of Venn Access Road.

Daniel Spadoni, community relations coordinator for Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), said in an email sent Friday that the project involves the backfilling and grading of 4,200 feet of highwalls that range in depth from 20 to 60 feet; and the removal of a water-filled pit and at least 11 culm piles and embankments as high as 50 feet.

In addition, crews will grade approximately 507,500-cubic-yards of on-site material, construct 2,050-cubic-yards of rock-lined ditches to convey storm water and seed the entire area with a mixture of grass, legumes and tree species.

Totaling $788,533, the contract was awarded to JBS Dirt, Inc., based in Canastota, N.Y. The project is federally funded by Office of Surface Mining (OSM) and is expected be completed by March 9, 2015.

The project will affect lands of the Fairview Gun Club; Northumberland County; City of Philadelphia; Pitreal Corporation, PPL Corporation; Sunoco Logistics; Daniel P. Moroz; Schuylkill Skyport Inn, and Northumberland County Career and Technology Center.

Spadoni explained that the Bureau of Abandoned Mine Reclamation (BAMR) administers and oversees the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Program in Pa. and that the bureau is responsible for resolving abandoned mine land issues, including, but not limited to, mine fires, subsidences and highwalls, in accordance with requirements established by OSM.

"Among the 28 BAMR construction contracts awarded in 2013, and so far in 2014 (two in 2014), (the project) ranks 6th, based on the contract bid amount," Spadoni said.

Spadoni said the features in the project area are ranked as high as priority two out of three, which is defined as "the protection of public health and safety from adverse effects of coal mining practices."

Spodini said the estimated cost to reclaim all priority one and two sites in Pennsylvania exceeds $1 billion.