Water quality characteristics of discharge from reforested loose-dumped mine spoil in Eastern Kentucky

Carmen T. Agouridis, Patrick N. Angel, Timothy J. Taylor, Christopher D. Barton, Richard C. Warner, Xia Yu, Constance Wood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


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, NO 3 --N, NH 4 +-N, SO 4 2-, 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 -, SO 4 2-, Ca, NO 3 --N, NH 4 +-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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)454-468
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Environmental Quality
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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