Abandoned mine drainage (AMD) treatment at Upper Saxman Run in Westmoreland County is a groundbreaking achievement. What began as a simple idea to use the energy from the flowing water of the Upper Saxman Run AMD discharge to produce electricity has turned into one of the most sophisticated projects ever tackled by the Loyalhanna Watershed Association (LWA).
The treatment plant serves as the site for the remediation of the Upper and Lower Saxman AMD discharges, which have a combined flow of over 8,000 gallons per minute. This project is the first of its kind to utilize the flow of mine drainage as an alternative energy source, providing a significant cost savings in the operation of AMD systems by eliminating the electricity expenses they incur annually. LWA’s goal is to provide information on this system and the problems encountered to others interested in pursuing a similar project.
The project involved the construction of a 1,600-foot pipeline to carry the 5,000 gallons per minute of discharge downstream, following an existing municipal sewage line to a micro-turbine station located adjacent to the Latrobe wastewater treatment plant. The water flows through a horizontal Kaplan turbine and generator system before returning to Saxman Run. The system generates three kilowatts of electricity, which powers an existing small AMD treatment system operated by Saint Vincent College at the wastewater treatment plant.