Voiceover: About 400-thousand people each year visit the Flight 93 National Memorial, which marks the site where passengers and crew successfully fought terrorists – preventing an even greater tragedy on September 11, 2001. Despite its place in history, the site holds one surprise for many people.
Reporter: Did you have any idea that this was a former coal mine site?
Visitor: No. I knew there were a lot of mines around here, but as far as this goes?
Reporter: But you, on the other hand?
Visitor: Oh, I knew it was a coal mine site.
Visitor: Because I'm a heavy equipment operator for a coal company.
You could tell by looking around, but if you're not a coal miner, a strip miner, you wouldn't know.
Voiceover: In fact, most of the site is dominated by decades of surface and underground mining, now well on its way to full reclamation. But on the day of the attack, the mine owner had completed about half of a five-year period of required reclamation.
Malcolm Crittenden: After the crash, the National Park Service came in and wanted to create a memorial, but the whole property was owned by PBS. The families of Flight 93 stepped in and said, hey, we'll buy the property from the mining company, PBS. And PBS said, we'll take the money from the sale and put it into a trust to take care of this pump well water that is currently coming out at the memorial and causing a pollutional problem at the impact site.
Voiceover: Flight 93's fuselage fell near a closed underground mine that was filled with water, contaminated with iron and manganese that was leaking into surrounding areas. The company had already installed both passive and active cleaning systems, but there were problems.
Brent Means: Once the plane crashed, that changed the game dramatically because no longer could we have a mining company operating a treatment system on this site because it was now going to become a national memorial.
Voiceover: Because of the memorial's significance, local, state, and federal officials – and the Families of Flight 93 – wanted to keep the treatment areas to a minimum, but also effective in protecting the site from polluted water.
Means: We had to figure out a way to treat the water, but we couldn't do it with all the expense associated with their treatment system. And it worked fairly well, but it still wasn't achieving the desired result.
Voiceover: To fulfill the conflicting needs took more than a year of study, which determined two things; the site would benefit from enhancing the pumping system by directing the minewater against rocks. The resulting aeration helps break the polluting iron away from the water, and allow it to settle. But something else was needed.
Means: Additional ponds were not going to do the job. What we had to do was create a wetland environment.
Means: (off camera) Plants do a great job of making the iron stick to the plants…and remove itself from the water.
Voiceover: To create the wetland area, the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement has provided a 312,000 dollar grant, which will provide for construction during fall and winter 2012. The project will take about 8 months to complete. But it will eventually provide another more visible enhancement to the memorial. Currently, visitors have only the most basic facilities for sanitation.
Voiceover: The designers of the project believe that if all goes as planned, the cleaned water will be sufficiently pure to use in the memorial's rest areas, and also for irrigation needs at the nearby tree planting and mine reclamation projects. For the US Department of the Interior and the Office of Surface Mining, I'm Chris Holmes.