Office of Surface Mining

Pittsburgh, PA, United States

Office of Surface Mining

Pittsburgh, PA, United States
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Wang N.,U.S. Geological Survey | Ingersoll C.G.,U.S. Geological Survey | Kunz J.L.,U.S. Geological Survey | Brumbaugh W.G.,U.S. Geological Survey | And 5 more authors.
Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry | Year: 2013

Sediment toxicity tests were conducted to assess potential effects of contaminants associated with coal mining or natural gas extraction activities in the upper Tennessee River basin and eastern Cumberland River basin in the United States. Test species included two unionid mussels (rainbow mussel, Villosa iris, and wavy-rayed lampmussel, Lampsilis fasciola, 28-d exposures), and the commonly tested amphipod, Hyalella azteca (28-d exposure) and midge, Chironomus dilutus (10-d exposure). Sediments were collected from seven test sites with mussel communities classified as impacted and in proximity to coal mining or gas extraction activities, and from five reference sites with mussel communities classified as not impacted and no or limited coal mining or gas extraction activities. Additional samples were collected from six test sites potentially with high concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and from a test site contaminated by a coal ash spill. Mean survival, length, or biomass of one or more test species was reduced in 10 of 14 test samples (71%) from impacted areas relative to the response of organisms in the five reference samples. A higher proportion of samples was classified as toxic to mussels (63% for rainbow mussels, 50% for wavy-rayed lampmussels) compared with amphipods (38%) or midge (38%). Concentrations of total recoverable metals and total PAHs in sediments did not exceed effects-based probable effect concentrations (PECs). However, the survival, length, or biomasses of the mussels were reduced significantly with increasing PEC quotients for metals and for total PAHs, or with increasing sum equilibrium-partitioning sediment benchmark toxic units for PAHs. The growth of the rainbow mussel also significantly decreased with increasing concentrations of a major anion (chloride) and major cations (calcium and magnesium) in sediment pore water. Results of the present study indicated that (1) the findings from laboratory tests were generally consistent with the field observations of impacts on mussel populations; (2) total recoverable metals, PAHs, or major ions, or all three in sediments might have contributed to the sediment toxicity; (3) the mussels were more sensitive to the contaminants in sediments than the commonly tested amphipod and midge; and (4) a sediment toxicity benchmark of 1.0 based on PECs may not be protective of mussels. © 2012 SETAC.

Miller C.R.,Office of Surface Mining | Franklin J.A.,University of Tennessee at Knoxville | Buckley D.S.,University of Tennessee at Knoxville
28th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Mining and Reclamation 2011 | Year: 2011

Successful reforestation on mine sites requires the use of species adapted to harsh soil and site conditions. Research has shown that American chestnut (Castanea dentata) may be a suitable species due to its historical presence on xeric, nutrient limited sites, which are characteristic of many surface mines. Here we compare seedling survival and performance, through various physiological parameters, of American chestnut planted on two sites in eastern Tennessee. A seedling with high performance is identified as having greater height, greater apical elongation, greater root collar diameter, greater photosynthetic rate, and lower water stress than poorly performing seedlings. Understanding how this species responds to surface mine planting treatments will aid reforestation experts in achieving reforestation and simultaneously restoring American chestnut. This study was carried out on a mine site reclaimed using the Forestry Reclamation Approach. Two sites, containing two plots each, had similar substrates, but differed in topography and material placement. Nine treatments were applied contemporaneously during planting in a factorial arrangement: forest topsoil (sterilized and un-sterilized), Terra-Sorb (applied and not applied), and fertilizer pellets (applied and not applied). Chestnuts were direct- seeded in rows with randomly assigned treatments. The first and second year survival rates of 29 and 28% were unacceptably low for successful reforestation. Fertilizer application reduced survival, but increased both natural height and root collar diameter over the first year in surviving seedlings. Further, fertilizer increased the rate of transpiration, and resulted in a more negative water potential. Terra-Sorb reduced survival, but increased natural height and root collar diameter, most likely as a result of a lesser degree of water stress. Lastly, the inclusion of sterile soil reduced survival, but increased photosynthetic rate.

Skousen J.,West Virginia University | Zipper C.,Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University | Burger J.,Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University | Angel P.,Office of Surface Mining | Barton C.,University of Kentucky
28th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Mining and Reclamation 2011 | Year: 2011

The Forestry Reclamation Approach is a five-step system for reclaiming mined lands to forests. Step 1 of the FRA involves creating a suitable rooting medium for good tree growth using topsoil, weathered sandstone and/or the best available material. Several types of overburden types can be selected to place on the surface as growth media. These spoil types include weathered brown sandstone and unweathered rock materials including sandstones, siltstones, shales, and mixtures of these materials. When sufficient topsoil is not salvageable, reclamation scientists often recommend that, when available, weathered sandstone should be considered as the "best available" topsoil substitute material. Here, we review the scientific evidence that supports such recommendations. Several studies have shown that tree survival was not significantly different among spoil types. Weathered brown sandstone, unweathered gray sandstone, siltstone and shale materials all produced good tree survival (>70%) when compaction and competitive ground covers were reduced. However, growth for most trees (as measured by height, diameter, and volume) was usually significantly greater in weathered brown materials than in unweathered sandstones, siltstones, shales, and mixed spoils. At one site in West Virginia five years after planting, a 10-fold difference in tree volume was found between these two spoil types. Similar results have been found with other studies across Appalachian surface mines. Based on the results of studies summarized herein, the use of weathered brown sandstone is generally recommended, along with topsoil materials when available, to be placed on the surface on sites where hardwood tree species are being planted for forestry post-mining land uses. Weathered brown sandstone spoil materials have a pH, soluble salt content, fine earth content well suited for trees, and sufficient nutrient supplying and water holding capacity that results in superior tree growth compared to other spoil types. The brown sandstone material more closely resembles the native forest soil than the unweathered gray materials.

Lusk B.T.,University of Kentucky | Castro J.S.,University of Kentucky | Hoffman J.M.,University of Kentucky | Eltschlager K.,Office of Surface Mining
Journal of Explosives Engineering | Year: 2011

This case study focuses on analysis of sounds inside a house induced by blasts as result of surface mining coal in West Virginia and how to better communicate technical information to the public.The field study included a house wide vibration and sound monitoring system installed in a home which was subjected to blasts at varied distances and direction. The structure response was separated into ground vibration and airblast induced movement due to the differences in their times of arrival.This signal was then compared to the sounds recorded to determine which component of blast (ground vibration or airblast) induced the maximum sound. Findings shows that blasts at distances less than 762 meters (2,500 feet) had maximum sound responses from both ground vibration and airblast. While for blasts beyond this distance the maximum sound response was caused by ground vibration without exception. The kitchen generally created the most sound. The second phase of the study was to gauge the public's response or preference to technical information. Three hundred and forty eight (348) telephone surveys were conducted in Logan and Boone counties West Virginia. Based on the survey, the public prefers units of pounds per square inch (psi) for airblast and millimeters of displacement for ground vibration. Ultimately a public relations plan was developed based on the results.

News Article | February 17, 2017

You are forgiven if the only thing you paid any attention to yesterday was President Donald J. Trump’s impromptu 77-minute press conference. But President Trump also did a bit of work yesterday, including the signing of a bill that nullified the Office of Surface Mining's Stream Protection Rule, which was finalized last December by the Obama administration. The rule, an update to 1983 regulations, was designed to protect waterways from coal mining waste. While by no means a perfect rule—it had no provisions for waste created by mountain-top coal removal—it was a step in the right direction for protecting our nation’s headwaters. Headwaters happen to be some of the most important parts of our river systems, the critical habitat where, among other things, trout and other fish species spawn. With no protections in place, those trout will now be spawning among coal mining waste, like toxic heavy metals. (There is, of course, a public health element to this, too. Some of those toxins could easily seep into groundwater. An alternative headline to this post could have read: “Hey Humans Who Drink Water, Get Ready To Enjoy Some Toxic Heavy Metals.”) President Trump has personally shown little interest in nature (unless you categorize golf courses as “nature”). His son, Donald, Jr., however, is a self-described sportsman. It is fairly widely known that he does some trout fishing on public water in New York State’s Catskill Mountains that very well could be adversely affected by the bill his father just signed. Trump, Jr., in an interview with Field & Stream a year ago, promised that he would be a strong advocate for sportsmen and conservation. One wonders if he had any conversations with his father before the signing of this bill. According to The Hill, at the bill signing ceremony: Trump called the regulation "another terrible job killing rule" and said ending it would save "many thousands American jobs, especially in the mines, which, I have been promising you — the mines are a big deal." "This is a major threat to your jobs and we’re going to get rid of this threat," he added. "We’re going to fight for you." But according to Science, this bill will do nothing to help out the struggling coal industry, which makes it the very definition of a lose-lose proposition.

Kohli K.K.,Office of Surface Mining | Self S.,Office of Surface Mining
Proceedings - 29th International Conference on Ground Control in Mining, ICGCM | Year: 2010

Three cases of surface subsidence investigated over abandoned coal mines after flooding in one case and dewatering in two cases are presented in this paper. Mining was conducted by the room-and-pillar method at all the mines, leaving stable pillars. This paper will discuss the background, chain of events and the likely causes of the pillar failure resulting in surface subsidence.

Burger J.,Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University | Zipper C.,Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University | Angel P.,Office of Surface Mining | Evans D.,Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University | Eggerud S.,Office of Surface Mining
28th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Mining and Reclamation 2011 | Year: 2011

More than 600,000 hectares of mostly forested land in the Appalachian region were surface mined for coal under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act. Today, these lands are largely unmanaged and covered with persistent herbaceous species, such as fescue and serecia lespedeza, and a mix of invasive and native woody species with little commercial or ecological value. Some landowners and surrounding residents would like to restore native forests on some of these lands for the valuable products and services they provided prior to mining. For these lands to become productive forests, intervention is needed to loosen compacted mine soils, correct chemical or nutrient deficiencies, and replace the current vegetation. Reforestation guidelines to restore native forests on mined lands that are unoccupied, unmanaged, and unproductive were developed. Practices include land clearing, mine soil tillage, fertilization, tree planting, weed control and monitoring. The recommended practices were tested on a 35-ha mine site, originally reclaimed to grassland and bond-released in 1997. After the second growing season mean stocking of 885 ha -1 was achieved. Five of the six primary planted species (black, white, and red oak, tulip poplar, black cherry) had statistically equivalent stocking, but tulip poplar and black cherry had the highest mean height and biomass. Volunteer trees occurred on most measurement plots; most volunteer trees were native but invasive shrubs were also present. The pre-existing vegetation proved to be persistent and competitive, demonstrating the importance of vegetation control and strategic nutrient application to reforestation success. Under leadership provided by the Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative, a group formed by the Office of Surface Mining and seven state regulatory authorities, these procedures have been adopted and applied by watershed improvement groups, forestry and fish/wildlife agencies, coal companies, environmental groups, and an electrical generating company pursuing carbon credits.

Pond G.J.,U.S. Environmental Protection Agency | Passmore M.E.,U.S. Environmental Protection Agency | Pointon N.D.,Three Parkway Center | Felbinger J.K.,Three Parkway Center | And 4 more authors.
Environmental Management | Year: 2014

Recent studies have documented adverse effects to biological communities downstream of mountaintop coal mining and valley fills (VF), but few data exist on the longevity of these impacts. We sampled 15 headwater streams with VFs reclaimed 11–33 years prior to 2011 and sampled seven local reference sites that had no VFs. We collected chemical, habitat, and benthic macroinvertebrate data in April 2011; additional chemical samples were collected in September 2011. To assess ecological condition, we compared VF and reference abiotic and biotic data using: (1) ordination to detect multivariate differences, (2) benthic indices (a multimetric index and an observed/expected predictive model) calibrated to state reference conditions to detect impairment, and (3) correlation and regression analysis to detect relationships between biotic and abiotic data. Although VF sites had good instream habitat, nearly 90 % of these streams exhibited biological impairment. VF sites with higher index scores were co-located near unaffected tributaries; we suggest that these tributaries were sources of sensitive taxa as drifting colonists. There were clear losses of expected taxa across most VF sites and two functional feeding groups (% scrapers and %shredders) were significantly altered. Percent VF and forested area were related to biological quality but varied more than individual ions and specific conductance. Within the subset of VF sites, other descriptors (e.g., VF age, site distance from VF, the presence of impoundments, % forest) had no detectable relationships with biological condition. Although these VFs were constructed pursuant to permits and regulatory programs that have as their stated goals that (1) mined land be reclaimed and restored to its original use or a use of higher value, and (2) mining does not cause or contribute to violations of water quality standards, we found sustained ecological damage in headwaters streams draining VFs long after reclamation was completed. © 2014, Springer Science+Business Media New York (outside the USA).

Chugh Y.P.,Southern Illinois University Carbondale | Behum P.T.,Office of Surface Mining
International Journal of Coal Science and Technology | Year: 2014

This paper provides an overview of coal waste management practices with two case studies and an estimate of management cost in 2010 US dollars. Processing of as-mined coal typically results in considerable amount of coarse and fine coal processing wastes because of in-seam and out-of-seam dilution mining. Processing plant clean coal recovery values run typically 50 %–80 %. Trace metals and sulfur may be present in waste materials that may result in leachate water with corrosive characteristics. Water discharges may require special measures such as liner and collection systems, and treatment to neutralize acid drainage and/or water quality for trace elements. The potential for variations in coal waste production and quality depends upon mining or processing, plus the long-term methods of waste placement. The changes in waste generation rates and engineering properties of the coal waste during the life of the facility must be considered. Safe, economical and environmentally acceptable management of coal waste involves consideration of geology, soil and rock mechanics, hydrology, hydraulics, geochemistry, soil science, agronomy and environmental sciences. These support all aspects of the regulatory environment including the design and construction of earth and rock embankments and dams, as well as a wide variety of waste disposal structures. Development of impoundments is critical and require considerations of typical water-impounding dams and additional requirements of coal waste disposal impoundments. The primary purpose of a coal waste disposal facility is to dispose of unusable waste materials from mining. However, at some sites coal waste impoundments serve to provide water storage capacity for processing and flood attenuation. © 2014, The Author(s).

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