The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago has applied biosolids, followed by revegetation, to reclaim three coal-refuse areas. Most of the reclamation at the three sites was done from 1989 through 1992, and included the application of lime, clay, and various loads of biosolids up to 1,000 dry tons per acre. Water samples collected from 12 monitoring wells installed in the vicinity of the three reclaimed coal-refuse areas were analyzed to better understand the hydrogeology and water-quality effects.
Ground water probably flows along preferential paths in the disturbed coal-refuse areas, and is impeded by undisturbed glacial till. Most of the samples contained elevated concentrations of sulfate, iron, and manganese, constituents associated with ground water in coal-mined areas. Concentrations of aluminum, cadmium, nickel, or zinc were somewhat elevated in samples from four wells, and greatest in water samples with pH less than 5. The smaller nutrient concentrations indicate that the applied biosolids are not identifiably affecting nutrients or metal concentrations in shallow ground water near the refuse piles. The coal refuse likely is the primary influence on the chemical characterization of ground-water in the area.