U.S. Water News Online
PITTSBURGH — A western Pennsylvania church long plagued by runoff from a mine abandoned in the 1800s has launched an $80,000 project that will use the previously irritating water to heat and cool the building, a plan that is expected to cut heating costs by 80 percent.
Many Pittsburgh buildings, including John Wesley AME Zion Church, are plagued by runoff from abandoned mines, sometimes causing structural damage and other problems. The state Department of Environmental Protection spent $106,000 in 2004 to install a pipe on the mine floor that drains into the storm and sewage system under the street.
Now the church is using that problem to solve another — rising energy costs. The 55-degree mine water, which runs at a rate of 100 gallons a minute, will go through a heat exchanger and pump to heat and cool the church, Pastor Calvin Cash said at Friday's groundbreaking.
Officials say the new system, funded by a state grant, is also expected to cut cooling costs in half. If successful, it could spur similar efforts near other abandoned mines.
Darwin Burtner, the owner of Western Pennsylvania Geothermal Heating and Cooling, the company doing the work, said the heat pump technology being installed in the church is not new, but using mine drainage as an energy source is.
"We take heat from it and heat the church, and take heat away from it and cool the church," Burtner said. "It becomes the most energy-efficient system that's out there today."
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