Influence of spoil type on chemistry and hydrology of interflow on a surface coal mine in the eastern us coalfield

Kenton Sena, Chris Barton, Patrick Angel, Carmen Agouridis, Richard Warner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Surface mining for coal is responsible for widespread degradation of water resources and aquatic ecosystems in the Appalachian Region, USA. Because native topsoils are typically not retained on Appalachian mined sites, mine soils are usually composed of crushed overburden. This overburden tends to contribute high salinity loads to downstream aquatic systems. Also, loss of transpiration from forests and reduced infiltration associated with conventional reclamation procedures lead to altered water budgeting and stream morphology. To investigate the influence of the geologic composition of this overburden on water quality and tree growth, a series of experimental plots were constructed on a reclaimed surface mine site in eastern Kentucky, USA, in 2005. Treatments included unweathered GRAY sandstone, weathered BROWN sandstone, and MIXED sandstones and shale spoils. Plots were composed of end-dumped, uncompacted spoils and were designed to drain interflow through data acquisition stations for sampling purposes. Most water chemical parameters had stabilized across all treatments by 9 years after spoil placement. Discharge volume was not different among treatment types through the first 3 years after placement. However, 9 years after placement, seasonal variation in discharge on BROWN is more extreme than that on MIXED or GRAY. In addition, planted tree growth on BROWN has drastically outpaced growth on GRAY or MIXED, suggesting that evapotranspiration may be influencing seasonal variation in water discharged from BROWN. These results suggest that placement of brown weathered spoils when soil substitutes are required may lessen hydrologic impacts via improved tree growth and water utilization on surface-mined sites in Appalachia.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2171
JournalWater, Air, and Soil Pollution
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments The authors thank Andrea Drayer, Beth Hansen, Millie Hamilton, Mary Weatherford, Nic Williamson, Otto Hoffmann, and Kristen McQuerry for help with sampling and analysis. A portion of this work was sponsored by the Appalachian Research Initiative for Environmental Science (ARIES). Information about ARIES can be found at edu/ARIES. The views, opinions, and recommendations expressed herein are solely those of the authors and do not imply any endorsement by ARIES employees, other ARIES-affiliated researchers, or industrial members.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Springer International Publishing Switzerland.


  • Appalachia
  • Electrical conductivity
  • Mine soils
  • Surface mine reforestation
  • Water quality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecological Modeling
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Pollution


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