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IRC Environment Buckhorn Facility

 

The Organization

The Intermunicipal Relations Committee (IRC) Council of Governments (COG) (who houses KAB affiliate Keep Blair Beautiful) operates two composting facilities that serves about three-quarters of the county. 

The COG inherited these facilities from the county after their recycling department lost funding and closed two years ago. While operationally efficient and effective, the primary facility is not particularly attractive nor presently conducive to educational tours. 

The Mission

The IRC Buckhorn Recycling and Composting facility is located on over 400 acres of an abandoned coal strip mine. The location is currently mostly wooded beyond the composting operation which utilizes 24 acres. The facility sees an average of over 75 visitors per day and several school groups that host annual field trips.

The Project

It is our hope to demonstrate sustainability in action to the public who utilize our facility and the students studying the environment. We intend to use the funding to provide for wetlands plantings, demonstration gardens, and several interpretive signs. The Buckhorn facility has already had some water quality improvement projects completed by the Clearfield Creek Watershed Association on their Klondike Mine Treatment project in 2007. The project removes about 80% of the iron and acidity associated with the acid mine drainage. The link for this project is included. http://www.clearfieldcreekwatershed.org/klondike-treatment-system.html. In 2015 the facility installed a demonstration garden using our locally produced compost and native species at the entrance. We have plans to install other demonstration gardens in the coming years. 

The IRC COG has four full-fledged municipal members that have helped the COG maintain and improve this facility since we resumed operation two and a half years ago. As such, the facility has maintained an excellent track record of past success and has managed to do so with relatively limited resources because of this collaboration. We believe that this speaks to both the commitment and ongoing sustainability of these efforts. Keep Blair Beautiful, the IRC COG and its member municipalities will all be committing resources and in-kind work to the work being done related to the hard cost funding.

The IRC has prioritized public education by maintaining an informative and up to date website, a Facebook page, and a smart phone app in addition to publishing over two dozen fact sheets, an annual newsletter and an extensive public presentation effort. The ability to offer these comprehensive tours will be the culmination of all our education efforts and an asset to our communities and schools. Cursed by a legacy of acid mine drainage, coal waste piles, sub-par recycling programs, open burning of waste of all kinds and rampant illegal dumping over the last half century, both Blair and Cambria County will benefit immensely from this sort of first hand education and demonstration facility. Beyond student and other groups, these exhibits and gardens will be seen by the thousands of facility users as well. It will be an informative opportunity for facility users and students to to be able to see several important environmental protection and remediation efforts at the same site. 
• An active storm water rain garden
• Demonstration gardens exhibiting the utilization of compost and encouraging organic gardening
• A mine reclamation project that has restored many dozens of previously barren coal mined land
• See recycling in action by observing a working recycling facility with many different recycling streams in place
• Tour an active compost facility to understand the process and benefits of compost use. 

With so many private sector businesses providing recycling services in our area, there are no hands-on learning opportunities for students or other interested groups to see how recycling works. Since we now recycle traditional materials at our facility, as well as electronics recycling, we have the first opportunity to welcome groups to see how these materials are handled and recovered. The ability to tour an active recycling and composting facility in addition to the other environmental protection initiatives make our facility a unique tour and educational opportunity for residents and students.

Key Project Milestones

  • Acid mine reclamation by completed Clearfield Creek Watershed Association in 2007.
  • Demonstration garden completed by IRC/Keep Blair Beautiful in 2015.
  • Interpretive signs to be developed and installed in 2016.
  • Wetlands constructions and stormwater management programs to be installed in 2016 in conjunction with a compost pad expansion.

Rough Budget for This Project

$10,000