Skip to main content

Sustainable Remediation of Legacy Mine Drainage: A Case Study of the Flight 93 National Memorial


Pollution from mining activities is a global environmental concern, not limited to areas of current resource extraction, but including a broader geographic area of historic (legacy) and abandoned mines. The pollution of surface waters from acid mine drainage is a persistent problem and requires a holistic and sustainable approach to addressing the spatial and temporal complexity of mining-specific problems. In this paper, we focus on the environmental, socio-economic, and legal challenges associated with the concurrent activities to remediate a coal mine site and to develop a national memorial following a catastrophic event. We provide a conceptual construct of a socio-ecological system defined at several spatial, temporal, and organizational scales and a critical synthesis of the technical and social learning processes necessary to achieving sustainable environmental remediation. Our case study is an example of a multi-disciplinary management approach, whereby collaborative interaction of stakeholders, the emergence of functional linkages for information exchange, and mediation led to scientifically informed decision making, creative management solutions, and ultimately environmental policy change.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3


  1. Altay N, Green WG III (2006) OR/MS research in disaster operations management. Eur J Oper Res 175:475–493

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Argothy V (2003) Framing volunteerism in a consensus crisis: mass media coverage of volunteers in the 9/11 response. Preliminary Paper #335. University of Delaware Disaster Research Center. Accessed 24 March 2015

  3. Bridge G (2004) Contested terrain: mining and the environment. Annu Rev Environ Resour 29:205–259

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Byrne P, Wood PJ, Reid I (2012) The impairment of river systems by metal mine contamination: a review including remediation options. Crit Rev Environ Sci Technol 42:2017–2077. doi:10.1080/10643389.2011.574103

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. Clarvis MH, Allan A (2014) Adaptive capacity in a Chilean context; a questionable model for Latin America. Environ Sci Policy 43:78–90

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (2007) Consent order and agreement between the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Department of Environmental Protection and PBS Coals, Inc

  7. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (2008a) Treatment trust agreement between PBS Coals, Inc. and Somerset Trust Company

  8. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (2008b) Consent Order and agreement between the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Department of Environmental Protection, PBS Coals, Inc. and the Families of Flight 93

  9. Courtney R (2013) Mine tailings composition in a historic site: implications for ecological restoration. Environ Geochem Health 35:79–88

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. Cumming GS, Cumming DHM, Redman CL (2006) Scale mismatches in social-ecological systems: causes, consequences, and solutions. Ecol Soc 11(1):14

    Google Scholar 

  11. da Silveira AR, Richards KS (2013) The link between polycentrism and adaptive capacity in river basin governance systems: insights from the river Rhine and the Zhujiang (Pearl River) basin. Ann Assoc Am Geogr 103(2):319–329

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Department of Environmental Protection (Pennsylvania) (2014) Integrated list of all waters. Accessed 24 March 2015

  13. Environmental Protection Agency (2007) Letter from the Director of the Engineering and Analysis Division of the Environmental Protection Agency, United States of America to the Superintendent of the Flight 93 National Memorial

  14. Environmental Protection Agency, United States of America (2014) National recommended water quality criteria. Accessed 24 March 2015

  15. Environmental Resources Management (2002) Final closure report for United Airlines Flight 93. Environmental Resources Management, Wexford

    Google Scholar 

  16. European IPPC Bureau (2004) Reference document on best available techniques for management of mine and waste-rock in mining activities July 2004. Joint Research Centre, Institute for Prospective Technology Studies. Accessed 24 March 2015

  17. Grant NK, Hoover DH, Scarisbrick-Hauser A, Muffet SL (2002a) Terrorism in Shanksville: a study in preparedness and response. Quick response research report #157. Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center, University of Colorado. Boulder, CO. Accessed 24 March 2015

  18. Grant NK, Hoover DH, Scarisbrick-Hauser A, Muffet SL (2002b) The crash of United Flight 93 in Shanksville, PA. Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center, University of Colorado. Boulder, CO. Accessed 24 March 2015

  19. Harris F, Lyon F (2013) Transdisciplinary environmental research: building trust across professional cultures. Environ Sci Policy 31:109–119

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Hou D, Al-Tabbaa A (2014) Sustainability: a new imperative in contaminated land remediation. Environ Sci Policy 39:25–34

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Howe PD, Yarnal B, Coletti A, Wood NJ (2013) The participatory vulnerability scoping diagram: deliberative risk ranking for community water systems. Ann Assoc Am Geogr 103(2):343–352

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Jordan G, Abdaal A (2013) Decision support methods for the environmental assessment of contamination at mining sites. Environ Monit Assess 185:7809–7832. doi:10.1007/s10661-013-3137-z

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Kim S-M, Choi Y, Suh J, Oh S, Park H-D, Yoon S-H, Go W-R (2012) ArcMine: a GIS extension to support mine reclamation planning. Comput Geosci 46:84–95

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Knights AM, Culhane F, Hussain SS, Papadopoulou KN, Piet GJ, Raakœr J, Rogers SI, Robinson LA (2014) A step-wise process of decision-making under uncertainty when implementing environmental policy. Environ Sci Policy 39:56–64

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Kruse NA, DeRose L, Korenowsky R, Bowman JR, Lopez D, Johnson K, Rankin E (2013) The role of remediation, natural alkalinity sources and physical stream parameters in stream recovery. J Environ Manag 128:1000–1011

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  26. Leith P, O’Toole K, Haward M, Coffey B, Rees C, Ogier E (2014) Analysis of operating environments: a diagnostic model for linking science, society and policy for sustainability. Environ Sci Policy 39:162–171

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Lemming G, Hauschild MZ, Bjerg PL (2010) Life cycle assessment of soil and groundwater remediation technologies: literature review. Int J Life Cycle Assess 15:115–127

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  28. Liang HC, Thomson BM (2009) Minerals and mine drainage. Water Environ Res 49:1615–1663

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. National Park Service, United States of America (2007a) Flight 93 national memorial final general management plan/environmental impact statement, vol 72(207). United States Department of the Interior, Federal Register, Washington

    Google Scholar 

  30. National Park Service, United States of America (2007b) Manganese discharge on PBS coal property, briefing statement. National Parks of Western Pennsylvania, Somerset, PA

  31. Nursey-Bray MJ, Vince J, Scott M, Haward M, O’Toole K, Smith T, Harvey N, Clarke B (2014) Science into policy? Discourse, coastal management and knowledge. Environ Sci Policy 38:107–119

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Office of Surface Mining and Reclamation Enforcement (2014) AMDTreat Version 5.0. Department of the Interior, United States of America. Accessed 24 March 2015

  33. Quarantelli EL, Dynes RR (1976) Community conflict: its absence and its presence in national disasters. Mass Emerg 1:139–152

    Google Scholar 

  34. Rahm BG, Riha SJ (2012) Toward strategic management of shale gas development: regional, collective impacts on water resources. Environ Sci Policy 17:12–23

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Redman C, Grove MJ, Kuby L (2004) Integrating social science into the long term ecological research (LTER) network: social dimensions of ecological change and ecological dimensions of social change. Ecosystems 7(2):161–171

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Schwarzenbach RP, Egli T, Hofstetter TB, von Gunten U, Wehrli B (2010) Global water pollution and human health. Annu Rev Environ Resour 35:109–136

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Williams BK, Brown ED (2014) Adaptive management: from more talk to real action. Environ Manag 53:465–479

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Williams BK, Szaro RC, Shapiro CD (2009) Adaptive management: The United States Department of the interior technical guide. Adaptive Management Working Group, United States Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C

    Google Scholar 

  39. Worrall R, Neil D, Brereton D, Mulligan D (2009) Towards a sustainability criteria and indicators framework for legacy mine land. J Clean Prod 17(16):1426–1434

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


This paper would not have been possible without the cooperation and assistance of many people and agencies. We thank Patrick White (Families of Flight 93) for his assistance with constructing the timeline and his explanations of the legal processes associated with the land purchase, Martin Sokolow (DEP) for providing and explaining the Consent Agreements, Donna Glassner (Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial) for providing us access to archived materials, Jay Winter (California District Mining Office) for providing geologic reports and maps, Randall Musser (Musser Engineering) and Beth Kern (PBS Coals, Inc.) for their assistance with digital copies of coal mining permit maps, Timothy Dolney (Penn State Altoona) for his assistance with GIS and figure creation, and William White (Penn State Altoona) for his assistance in the editing of this paper.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Lisa A. Emili.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Emili, L.A., Pizarchik, J. & Mahan, C.G. Sustainable Remediation of Legacy Mine Drainage: A Case Study of the Flight 93 National Memorial. Environmental Management 57, 660–670 (2016).

Download citation


  • Coal mine reclamation
  • Water resources
  • Mine drainage
  • Socio-ecological system
  • Sustainable development