“Killed all the fish for miles around” – A lament for Coal Region waterways – 1895

In 1895, the Pottsville Republican took issue with Pennsylvania court decisions that further allowed mine operators to pollute streams in the Keystone State. In fact, the Republican noted, this was a systemic issue of corruption wherein the Pennsylvania courts were protecting mining companies who had broken the state’s lackadaisical conservation laws.

PA_AcidMineDrainage
Acid mine drainage in a tributary to Big Mine Run near Centralia, PA (Michael C. Rygel via Wikimedia Commons)

The Republican lamented the loss of many beautiful fisheries and the desecration of once beautiful waterways in its February 28, 1895 edition.

The Courts can knock out the Pennsylvania fisheries and baffle the Pennsylvania fish and game legislators every time. The courts are constantly protecting mining corporations in the pollution of nearly all the streams in the Coal Region with their deadly mine water and culm from their washeries which does the work effectually for fish fry as well as for frisky full grown game fish.

The Fish Commissioners may stock a stream today under the supposed protection of the law and tomorrow some ruthless mine operator may turn his pumpings into that stream, when the fish business is speedily done for and the courts are always able to find some flaw in the law which exonerates the man at the mine.

The Jeddo Tunnel has killed all the fish for miles around that section. The hitherto prolific Nescopeck and its tributaries are forever ruined as the home of any living thing that swims, and there is neither remedy nor redress.   

Acid mine drainage remains a major problem throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania today. The Jeddo Tunnel, mentioned in the 1895 article continues to spew out polluted water today.

Jeddo Tunnel Drainage - 2005
Water flowing from the Jeddo Tunnel in 2005 (DEP)

From a 2011 report by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection:

The Jeddo Tunnel mine discharge near Hazleton is the largest abandoned underground
mine discharge in Pennsylvania. The Jeddo Tunnel has a total drainage area of 32.24
square miles, and its underground drainage system collects and discharges more than half
of the precipitation received in the drainage area.

Stricter conservation laws in the 20th century and efforts to reclaim and clean impacted waterways has made a tremendous impact in improving the pollution problem, but there is still a long way to go.


Featured Image: The Big Lick Tunnel and its acid mine drainage in Williams Township, Dauphin County (author’s photograph) and a rainbow trout illustration (US Fish and Wildlife Service)


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One thought on ““Killed all the fish for miles around” – A lament for Coal Region waterways – 1895

  1. It is hard to understand even in the 1970’s i grew-up around the shamokin shit creek.With all the nice rusty cover rocks/The locals politicians did not care one bit. When if ever are people going to understand there only one earth?

    Liked by 1 person

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