Nature Is Reclaiming A Former Coal Mine, And The Allegheny Land Trust Wants To Keep It That Way

May 30, 2019

On today’s program: The Allegheny Land Trust is protecting a former mine from developers; water from military bases near Pittsburgh International Airport is being contaminated by toxic chemicals; U.S. Congressman Conor Lamb talks Russia investigation and abortion bans; the kids for cash scandal gets a musical; and a national tournament for blind bowlers comes to Pittsburgh.

Preserving a former mine site can be complicated
(00:00 – 12:20)

Efforts to protect 40 acres from developers near the border of Castle Shannon and Bethel Park are underway by the Bethel Greenway Project, a collaboration between Bethel Park municipal leaders, residents and the Allegheny Land Trust. Tom Dougherty, vice president of development and external affairs at the trust, and Tim Moury, president of the Bethel Park Council, say they plan to turn a long-retired coal mine into the largest remaining greenspace in the South Hills.

The trust needs in excess of $700,000 to secure the land from Pittsburgh Terminal Coal Corporation, but according to Dougherty, more than half may ultimately be covered by pending grants. He hopes to close by 2020. 

The trust will maintain the property, he says, but make very few–if any–changes. 

Toxic chemicals found in the water near PIT
(13:50 – 17:50)

According to a U.S. National Guard report, toxic firefighting foam has contaminated the surface and ground water at two Southwestern Pennsylvania military bases located near the Pittsburgh International Airport. The chemicals, called PFAS (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances), have connections to thyroid disease and kidney cancer and have been found in concentrated levels that are above the threshold for safe drinking water set by the EPA. 

PublicSource reporter Oliver Morrison spoke with Allegheny Front’s Kara Holsopple about PFAS and their effects.

Cash for kids scandal: the musical
(17:52 – 22:11) 

A debacle that led to charges against two Luzerne County judges a decade ago is getting its stage debut complete with original songs. "Minors" premieres at the Lantern Theater in Philadelphia on Friday, and is the lyrical recounting of the juvenile prison scandal that caused judges to harshly sentence child offenders in order to receive financial kickbacks from a for-profit detention center.

WHYY's Peter Crimmins sits down with the musical's co-authors to discuss how they set the scene and what it means to come of age while suffering injustice.

Congressman Conor Lamb on impeachment calls and abortion
(22:12 – 34:32) 

Calls for impeachment inquiries against President Trump have steadily grown after the release of the Mueller report. U.S. Congressman Conor Lamb, who represents suburban Allegheny County, southern Butler County and all of Beaver County, has been more cautious. Lamb spoke with 90.5 WESA's Lucy Perkins, and says the report is just one step in a much longer journey.

Lamb also talks about the recent bills proposed in a number of state legislatures that would restrict abortion access. Lamb calls outright bans on abortion unconstitutional. 

"These are women that need health care, and they need these services, and they're going to get these services whether we like it or not–at least wealthy ones will," he says. "I, personally, don't believe that there's one Constitution for wealthy people and one for everybody else. If it's a right, it's a right, and everybody should have access to it."

National blind bowling tournament rolls into Pittsburgh
(34:34 – 39:20) 

Hundreds of blind and visually impaired bowlers gather each year to compete in the American Blind Bowling Association's national tournament, and Pittsburgh is this year's host city. The Confluence's Megan Harris spoke to event coordinator and national tournament committee member Mike Staab ahead of the kickoff Thursday night.

He talks about adaptations for the competitors and how other senses come into focus when a bowler is blind or visually impaired. 

90.5 WESA's Julia Zenkevich, Hannah Gaskill and Julia Maruca contributed to this program.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.