On September 11, 2001, Flight 93, a United Airlines Boeing 757, was one of four planes hijacked in a terrorist attack. It did not hit its intended target, but crashed into a reclaimed coal strip mine outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania, about 150 miles northwest of Washington, DC.
Through testimony, tapes of passengers' phone calls, and the flight data recorders recovered from the crash, the 9/11 Commission determined that crew and passengers had overpowered the hijackers. The Commission concluded that the hijackers crashed the plane to keep the crew and passengers from gaining control of the aircraft.
The Families of Flight 93 intend to create a permanent memorial to their loved ones who died at the site. The memorial would become part of the National Park System, but environmental problems with mine drainage at the site have stalled progress towards this goal.
Under today's agreement, PBS Coal will sell the land to the Families of Flight 93 for a price not to exceed the amount the Department of Environmental Protection determines is needed to place in a trust to operate a treatment system to handle the drainage.
DEP Secretary Kathleen McGinty said the arrangement is necessary to build the memorial to those who died on September 11, 2001. "This agreement marks another milestone in our efforts to see that a memorial be built here that recognizes and commemorates the brave sacrifice made on September 11," she said.
Site of the Flight 93 crash in Pennsylvania (Photo courtesy U.S. Government)
"In order to make that memorial a reality, though, we have to address the water quality concerns that have developed at the site, and that involved additional measures that wouldn't ordinarily be needed," McGinty said. "The agreement we're announcing today ensures that those concerns will be permanently addressed, which is required in order for the National Park Service take ownership of the land."
Part of the Flight 93 crash site includes a reclaimed surface mine with a sediment pond. Seepage developed in and around this pond in 2003 that required treatment in order to protect the environment.
Due to the area's sensitive nature and status, however, PBS Coal could not treat the water as it would normally. Instead, the company pumped groundwater from an adjacent mine pool to lower the water table, which stopped the discharge.
Because the work at the off-site location involves more water than would have been necessary to treat on site, the costs are higher.
The obligation to meet this expense has been one of the issues delaying sale of the land to the Families of Flight 93 and, eventually, to the National Park Service for construction of the memorial.
Now, the proceeds from the land sale will be put into a trust fund and used to operate and maintain the water pumping and treatment work in perpetuity.
PBS Coals, the Families of Flight 93, local citizens' groups and the National Park Service have agreed to work together to form a local entity that will operate and maintain the treatment system after the land sale.
"This is clearly a historic moment in the development of the permanent Flight 93 National Memorial, and it signifies substantial progress toward the families' unqualified commitment to the memorial's formal dedication by the tenth anniversary of September 11," said Patrick White, vice president of the Families of Flight 93.
"The families are especially grateful to Governor [Ed] Rendell for his support and commitment to this project, as well as Secretary McGinty and her department, which has provided such invaluable assistance through the complex negotiations that cleared the way to make possible this key acquisition."
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.