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AMD Research and Remediation: Virtual Seminar Recap

On Thursday, February 17th, the West Virginia Water Research Institute (WVWRI) held its third and final session of the Virtual Seminar Series. Speakers from Friends of the Cheat, West Virginia University, and WVWRI discussed acid mine drainage (AMD) research and remediation projects.

Session Highlights:

  • Madison Ball, Restoration Program Manager of Friends of the Cheat, discussed the history, challenges, and potential treatment avenues for Lick Run, a tributary to the Cheat River. This tributary is south of Kingwood, WV, and is the largest contributor of AMD in the Lower Cheat River Watershed. Within 2019 alone, this tributary had discharged over 250 tons of aluminum and iron into the Cheat River. The issue with Lick Run is that passive treatment options are extremely limited due to the high concentration of pollutants. Other treatment options are further limited due to the lack of electricity at the site, topographic constraints, and the high cost of operations and maintenance.
  • Jason Fillhart, Watershed Project Manager at WVWRI and National Mine Land Reclamation Center, discussed a group of passive treatment systems in the Upper Buckhannon River Watershed. The three streams affected by AMD were Swamp Run, Herods Run, and Smooth Rock Lick Run which all drain directly into the Buckhannon River. The passive systems at Smooth Rock Lick Run cost roughly over $350,000 and have successfully reduced the pollutant loadings and raised the pH.  The systems at Swamp Run cost over one million dollars. The larger of the two systems consists of two limestone leach beds, a settling pond, and an aerobic wetland polisher and has brought the iron and aluminum loadings to nearly zero mg/L in the outflow. Due to the success of these treatments, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources has been able to introduce native brook trout to Smooth Rock Lick Run. The continuing goal for all three streams is to remove them from the West Virginia 303(d) list.
  • Jerry Hu, master’s student in the WVU Department of Geology and Geography, discussed his ongoing project analyzing passive AMD treatment system components over lifespans, seasons, and storms. The most common geochemical passive AMD treatments are open limestone channels (OLC) and limestone leach beds (LLB). OLCs neutralize and oxidize AMD as it flows over it. This is ideal for treatment systems on steep slopes. Since OLCs channelize the AMD flow, over time they can clog with iron precipitates. LLBs are a good option for AMD with a low pH since it helps to raise the alkalinity of the water. They require periodic flushing, like OLCs, to prevent clogging. The project team will be sampling several treatment system components on a monthly basis to learn more about the effects of seasonality and storm events.

Thank you to all our presenters and over 60 attendees throughout this series! Remember that you can always go back and watch recordings of our past seminars, as well as recordings from our Three River Quest (3RQ) Virtual Roundtable Series. We hope these virtual events have been as helpful and informative for you as it has been for us!