Ancient Technology Meets 21st
OSM's Applied Sciences and Technology Transfer Program
Re-Introduces The Trompe
A First Use of An Old Idea to Clean Up Mine Water
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
PITTSBURGH, PA — In the 1600s, Italian engineers discovered a way to compress air using only gravity and water. Later on, Spanish engineers working on ways to improve iron production realized this technique could be used to drive their tools. In the 20th century, modern engineers realized the advantages of using the same device to drive tools used in underground mining while also supplying fresh air to miners.
However, the device called a "trompe," that endured in use for hundreds of years, faded from use because of the advent of internal combustion power and the ready availability of electricity. Until now.
On Tuesday, June 18, 2013, the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement's Applied Sciences and Technology Transfer Program will offer tours of a new project that uses a modern version of the ancient technology to clean up pollution from 20th century mining. It is believed to be the first use of a trompe to eliminate mine water pollution.
Three years ago, a Pittsburgh area environmental consultant, Bruce Leavitt, answered a request from OSM's Applied Sciences program for proposals to develop new passive methods of cleaning polluted water at old mine sites. Leavitt focused on aeration of iron-laden water, which increases the effective removal of the iron. As a student in the 1970's, Leavitt visited the last known large use of a trompe at a Canadian mine site. Remembering that the trompe required no electricity, had no moving parts, and needed little maintenance, he proposed building such a device at an old mine site near the Pittsburgh airport.
On Tuesday, Leavitt will help conduct the tours and describe how the trompe uses treated mine water to compress air; how the compressed air is used to oxygenate the mine water to accelerate iron oxidation; and how the technique provides excellent results at low construction and operational costs.
Leavitt developed the concept under an Applied Science grant from OSM. After designing the device, which uses inexpensive, common off-the-shelf materials, the Montour Run Watershed Association installed the trompe at the North Fork Passive Treatment System. The entire project is the product of a public-private partnership effort, including the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, the Allegheny County Airport Authority, the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, BioMost, Inc., Quality Aggregates, Inc., and Stream Restoration, Inc.
OSM and its collaborators are offering two onsite tours to citizens, environmental, watershed and industry groups; one at 10 a.m. and another at 1 p.m. on Tuesday. The site is located two miles south of the Greater Pittsburgh Airport. Take State Route 30 to PA Turnpike 376. The turn on to PA Turnpike 576 West (toward the airport). Just before entering the turnpike section to the airport, you will pay a .75 toll. Immediately after paying the toll, you will find an entrance gate about 100 feet on the right. Enter this area and follow the direction of organizers.