Honors Capstone Proposal

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Comparison of Mine Drainage Systems (or lack of) in Somerset, Cambria, and Westmoreland Counties

For my Honors’ Capstone project, I plan to study and compare methods of mine drainage systems. Through the process of studying the mine drainage systems and as a final product of my project, I will also be creating a writing portfolio. This project will require me to incorporate three academic fields: chemistry, biology, and English/journalism.

            The main focus of my project will be to compare the mine drainage systems of Somerset, Cambria, and Westmoreland counties. I will be comparing the different methods and strategies used in each system as well as comparing the cost and efficiency of each system. Also, I will be researching areas with untreated mine drainage to see how the environment around this drainage is affected as well as to determine why there is a lack of a cleanup system. To make my observations, I will be visiting several mine drainage sites and mining areas throughout Somerset, Cambria, and Westmoreland counties. I plan on using the Winnie Palmer Nature Reserve at St. Vincent College (it utilizes a natural system for cleaning up mine drainage that is highly effective) as a source of comparison. I will compare it others located throughout these three counties. I will also compare this system to areas lacking any effort to clean up mine drainage and compare the results of each situation’s affects on the environment.

            The part of my project that will be related to biology will be the comparison and contrast of the systems as well as studying the consequences from lack of a system. The chemistry aspect of my project will be learning how the different systems are created, how they chemically change the substances draining from mines, and also learning how to test and determine if a water source is being negatively affected from untreated mine drainage. I am also going to include how untreated mine drainage areas/water sources impacts the health of those in the surrounding communities.

            For the English/journalism part of my project, I will first be creating an online web blog journal to keep track of the progress of my project. In this journal, I will discuss my research and observations of my visits to the cleanup sites/untreated areas. Blogging will also permit my project to become invisible to an online audience which allows opportunity for feedback from others interested or possibly involved with these systems. I plan on using this blogging journal as a means to start discussion on the blogs of researchers and others more involved with the topic who have posted their work online. Along with this journal, I will be performing interviews with those working at the St. Vincent site, water authority figures and personal connected to other sites/untreated areas, and residents living in communities surrounding a mine drainage cleanup site or untreated area. To explore further into what the possible human health benefits a mine drainage system can provide to a community, I plan on interviewing health professionals at local hospitals. When visiting cleanup sites, I will be taking pictures (and video when permitted) to add extra media and visual information for my portfolio.

            My main goal for this project is to create a portfolio based off of solid research and investigative reporting that would be presentable and useful in the creation of a proposal for a mine drainage cleanup system in an area where one has not been established. I also would like to use this portfolio as support for proposals I plan on writing to help improve systems that are inefficient or have the potential to become more advanced. Although this is my overall goal, I realize that depending on the information I find, creating a proposal for a system may not be possible (my research on the cost of a system verses the benefits it would bring to a community will be key in determining this). My portfolio will include several sections including: an area discussing the researching I have used, pictures video I have taken, interviews I have conducted, reflections for each of my visits to cleanup sites, reflections for each visit to an untreated site, information on human health effects from systems of lack of, and a section on the methods for determining if a water source is being negatively impacted by mine drainage. Depending on how my project progresses, more categories may be added as needed. My online journal will also be included in this portfolio.

            Through this project, I plan to gain experience with an area in my academic discipline as well as explore two other academic areas out of what I am studying. I hope the combination of the three disciplines will help me to create a final product that will aide in helping to clean up and maintain the environment in mining areas.

 

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