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This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 41 No. 2, p. 454-468
    Received: Apr 20, 2011

    * Corresponding author(s): carmen.agouridis@uky.edu
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Water Quality Characteristics of Discharge from Reforested Loose-Dumped Mine Spoil in Eastern Kentucky

  1. Carmen T. Agouridis *a,
  2. Patrick N. Angelb,
  3. Timothy J. Taylorc,
  4. Christopher D. Bartond,
  5. Richard C. Warnera,
  6. Xia Yue and
  7. Constance Woodf
  1. a Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering Dep., Univ. of Kentucky, 128 C.E. Barnhart Bldg., Lexington, KY 40546
    b United States Department of Interior, Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, 421 West Highway 80, London, KY 40741
    c Stantec Consulting Inc., 1409 N. Forbes Rd., Lexington, KY 40511
    d Forestry Dep., Univ. of Kentucky, 203 T.P. Cooper Bldg., Lexington, KY 40546
    e Statistics Dep., Univ. of Kentucky, 822 Patterson Office Tower, Lexington, KY, 40546
    f Statistics Dep., Univ. of Kentucky, 877 Patterson Office Tower, Lexington, KY, 40546. Assigned to Associate Editor Rainer Schulin


Surface mining is a common method for extracting coal in the coal fields of eastern Kentucky. Using the Forestry Reclamation Approach (FRA), which emphasizes the use of minimally compacted or loose-dumped spoil as a growth medium for trees, reclamation practitioners are successfully reestablishing forests. Yet, questions remain regarding the effects FRA has on the quality of waters discharged to receiving streams. To examine the effect of FRA on water quality, this study compared waters that were discharged from three types of spoils: predominantly brown, weathered sandstone (BROWN); predominantly gray, unweathered sandstone (GRAY); and an equal mixture of both aforementioned sandstones and shale (MIXED). The water quality parameters pH, EC, Ca, K, Mg, Na, NO3–N, NH4+–N, SO42−, Cl, TC, suspended sediment concentration (SSC), settleable solids (SS), and turbidity were monitored over a 2-yr period on six 0.4-ha plots (two replications per spoil type). Generally, levels of Cl, SO42−, Ca, NO3–N, NH4+–N, SS, SSC, and turbidity decreased over time. The pH for all spoils increased from about 7.5 to 8.5. The EC remained relatively level in the BROWN spoil, whereas the GRAY and MIXED spoils had downward trajectories that were approaching 500 μS cm−1. The value of 500 μS cm−1 has been reported as the apparent threshold at which certain taxa such as Ephemeroptera (e.g., Mayfly) recolonize disturbed headwater streams of eastern Kentucky and adjacent coal-producing Appalachian states.

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