Coal waste bank being removed in Swoyersville

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SWOYERSVILLE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — It’s been an eyesore and a health hazard for generations. But now its end is near. “It” is the massive coal waste bank in Swoyersville. Work is underway to remove the coal waste known as culm.

The large culm bank has been a fixture in this area for decades. Work began in March to remove it and other coal waste from this part of Luzerne County.

A bulldozer pushes coal waste, known as culm, onto a massive pile. It will be removed by trucks. Other heavy equipment screens and moves culm from this 55-acre piece of land in Swoyersville.

“Today we probably have well over 14,000 tons off the site and we are working toward 226,000 by October of 2021,” project supervisor Henry Zielinski said.

Zielinski is overseeing the culm removal. It will be used as a fuel source in cogeneration plants in the Lehigh Valley and Carbon County.

“Things have been going very well so far,” Zielinski said.

Zielinski says he understands the concerns of residents who live near the project site, so he tries to maintain an open line of communication.

“Talking to local community members it seems to be the biggest problem is the quads. The concern for is is a pretty big concern as well. We are changing the topography of the property here,” Zielinski said.

A private company owns the 55-acre site. Seven acres will be donated to the borough of Swoyersville.

“At one point people talked about putting up townhouses. There’s been talk of having a mini-strip center. A few businesses up on top. There’s plenty of opportunity,” Representative Aaron Kaufer of Luzerne County said.

Joe Leonard mowed his lawn Wednesday. He’s lived in the shadow of the culm bank for more than 70 years. He is happy to see it go.

“Well, it will be good for the borough. Maybe they can build some property in here, put some houses in here,” Leonard said.

Nancy Wrhtil and her friends often played in the culm bank area.

“I think it’s doing great. We don’t hear anything. There’s no big dust or like traffic back and forth along here. It’s all on the back road. You can see a big chunk of it gone,” Wrhtil said.

Other residents say they are sad to see a big part of their heritage going away but they add it is time to move on.

This is a private-public partnership project. The first phase will cost about $8 million. Three million from a federal grant and the remaining cost to be paid by the power company. The overall project should be completed in 2023.

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