The U.S. Geological Survey established 24 study areas in Eastern Appalachian Coal Province to appraise the hydrology and water resources from Alabama to Pennsylvania. Chemical, physical, biological, and streamflow data were collected from 138 synoptic sites in Area 7, eastern Ohio. The data are evaluated and presented in this report. Area 7 lies within the drainage basins of Muskingum Rivers and Duck and Willis Creeks in eastern Ohio. Walhounding, Tuscarawas, and Little Muskingum, and Muskingum Rivers and Wills and Duck Creeks are the major streams draining the study area.
In Ohio, surface and subsurface coal mining has altered the environment. In areas where land has been reclaimed, the environmental stress expected to be temporary. Hydrologic problems related to coal mining are erosion and sedimentation which degrade water-quality. Based on available sediment data, suspended sediment concentration were highest in abandoned mine areas, followed by currently mined and reclaimed areas, and lowest in unmined areas.
Low pH, high specific conductance, high concentrations of iron, sulfate and manganese, increased sediment yields, discoloration of streambeds, limited aquatic vegetation and animal life typify streams draining areas with abandoned mines. In abandoned mine areas, the specific conductance of water ranged from 800 to 2,300 micromhos; pH ranged from 2.8 to 5.8; dissolved-iron concentrations ranged from 1,000 to 85,000 micrograms per liter; dissolved-sulfate concentrations ranged from 14 to 1,200 milligrams per liter and dissolved-manganese concentration commonly exceeded 2,000 micrograms per liter. Red and yellow coloration on the streambeds were precipitates from the hydrolysis of iron, manganese, and sulfate minerals carried into the stream channel by increased sediment erosion from abandoned coal mines. Trace metal concentrations (arsenic, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, copper, lead, mercury, selenium, and zinc) were generally low. Degradation of fish habitat is illustrated by conceptual model of the aquatic biology related to water chemistry.