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story.lead_photo.caption The Missouri Department of Natural Resources' Land Reclamation Program is paying to reclaim an 8-acre former coal mine site in this area, northwest of the intersection of Route F and Hickman Avenue. Photo by Helen Wilbers / Fulton Sun.

JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri Department of Natural Resources' Land Reclamation Program recently awarded a contract to conduct reclamation activities at an abandoned coal and clay mining site identified as the Westminster Reclamation Project in Fulton.

The project was awarded to Carl R. Jones Excavating and Hauling of Fredericktown in the amount of $205,790, and work started at the beginning of July. This 8-acre project will reclaim a 300-foot-long highwall that is actively slumping.

The site is on private property, northwest of the intersection of Route F and Hickman Avenue, DNR LRP unit Chief Mike Mueller said. It became a department priority after a member of the family living on the land reported the highwall had caved off into the pit and was actively migrating into the yard, making it a significant hazard to the residents of the home. (The DNR declined to name the landowner.)

"The Land Reclamation Program retains an inventory of most of the known abandoned coal mine sites that contain a variety of health, safety and environmental problems throughout Missouri," Mueller said. "Each problem area is ranked and scored based on the severity of the problems, with those sites having the most severe health and safety problems being given the highest score. Because this site has an exposed highwall located immediately adjacent to residential property, this site ranked very high on the list and was selected for reclamation."

A 15-foot deep water impoundment on the site is also a potential hazard, Mueller said. According to a project summary, soil testing indicates spoil piles in the area are full of acid and toxic materials beneath hardwood trees and invasive bush honeysuckle.

In order to reclaim the site, the contractor will mix a "heavy dosing" of agricultural lime into the soil to neutralize it. The water impoundment will be back-filled. And a new permanent retention pond is under construction now at the foot of the site in hopes of capturing sediments and minimizing impact to nearby waterways, including a branch of Stinson Creek.

To prevent the reclamation from causing further environmental problems, the contractor will be required to install and maintain erosion and sediment control measures that will mitigate impacts to the receiving streams, Mueller said. They'll also reseed the area with grasses and forbs replicating native prairie.

Funds for this project come from a surcharge on each ton of coal mined in the United States, as authorized by the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977. The U.S. Department of the Interior's Office of Surface Mining collects and disburses funds to state and tribal abandoned mine land programs. Services are provided to the landowner at no cost to them.

"To date, Missouri has received $102.4 million in grants and cooperative agreements from U.S. Department of the Interior to conduct reclamation work in Missouri," said Larry Lehman, the department's Land Reclamation Program director.

In February, Fulton officials made an effort to bring a number of abandoned mine sites to the DNR's attention (bit.ly/39KEfxD), believing they might be negatively impacting Stinson Creek's water quality. Representatives from both bodies, plus the Missouri Department of Conservation, Missouri Public Utilities Alliance and Callaway County toured several sites at the time. The Westminster Reclamation site was discussed during the tour, though not included as a stop.

Mueller, who joined that tour, said none of those sites are currently being prepared for reclamation.

"However, the Land Reclamation Program is working with the federal Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement and the Department's Water Protection Program to assess the water quality of Stinson Creek to determine what can be done to mitigate the impacts from coal mining, if anything," he added.

Since 1985, the Land Reclamation Project has reclaimed more than 950 acres on 11 sites in Callaway County. Projects have included cleaning up coal waste areas and mine dumps along Cedar Creek, Middle River, Stinson Creek and Miller's Creek. Additionally, 20 underground mine openings have been sealed and closed near Fulton and Holts Summit, Mueller said.

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