Availability and Quality of Water from Underground Coal Mines in Johnson and Martin Counties, Kentucky

Open-File Report 81-690

Prepared in cooperation with the Kentucky Geological Survey and the University of Kentucky
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This report provides water users with detailed information on the location, quantity, and quality of water available from underground coal mines in the Breathitt Formation of Pennsylvanian age in part of eastern Kentucky. The principal coal seams mined are the Van Lear in Johnson County and the Alma in Martin County. Coal mines that contained water were located by field inventory and coal-mine maps. The principal factors that affect the occurrence of water in coal mines are the size of the recharge area overlying the mine, the intensity and duration of precipitation, and the altitude of the mine relative to that of the nearest perennial stream. Ten above-drainage mines (that is, mines at higher elevations than that of the nearest perennial stream) are considered potential sources of water. Discharge from these mines ranged from 12 to 1,700 gallons per minute. The highest sustained discharge from a mine ranged from 750 to 1,200 gallons per minute. The water in coal mines is part of the hydrologic system and varies seasonally with precipitation. Annual discharge from most above-drainage mines ranged from 3 to 10 percent of annual precipitation on the 1and-surface area above the mine. Eight below-drainage mines are considered potential sources of water. Two were test-pumped at rates of 560 to 620 gallons per minute for as long as 6 hours. After test pumping the Warfield Mining No. 1 mine during September 1977 and March 1978, the recovery (or recharge) rates were significantly different. In September, the recharge rate was about 1,150 gallons per minute, but in March the recharge rate was 103,500 gallons per minute. This difference reflects the seasonal variations in the amount of water available to the ground-water system. Estimates of water stored in below-drainage mines ranged from 22 to 1,462 million gallons. This storage represents a safety factor sufficient to provide water through periods of limited recharge to the mine. Most mine water is of the calcium magnesium sulfate type. In general, water from below-drainage mines had lower concentrations of dissolved constituents and higher pH than water from mines above drainage. The hardness of water ranged from soft to very hard and pH ranged -from 3.1 to 8.0 units. Dissolved iron ranged from 0.01 to 64 milligrams per liter. Phenol concentrations in water from eight coal mines ranged from 0 to 5 micrograms per liter. There seems to be a significant difference in the chemical quality of water from above- and below-drainage mines. The concentration of most constituents was lower in water from below-drainage mines than it was from above-drainage mines. The better quality water from below-drainage mines may reflect (1) lower mineralization resulting from less atmospheric oxygen available to react with pyrite or, (2) the result of sampling only the upper zones of water in below-drainage mines where the water has been diluted by less mineralized surface water or inflow or recharge.

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Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Availability and Quality of Water from Underground Coal Mines in Johnson and Martin Counties, Kentucky
Series title:
Open-File Report
Series number:
WRI/OFR 81-690
Year Published:
Geological Survey (U.S.)
Contributing office(s):
U.S. Geological Survey
viii, 55 p.; Plates