The effects of mountaintop removal coal mining and the valley fills created by this mining method in southern West Virginia were investigated by comparing data collected at valley-fill, mined, and unmined sites. Bed material downstream of valley-fill sites had a greater number of particles less than 2 millimeters and a smaller median particle size than the mined and unmined sites. At the 84th percentile of sampled data, however, bed material at each site type had about the same size particles.
Bankfull cross-sectional areas at a riffle section were approximately equal at valley-fill and unmined sites, but not enough time has passed and insufficient streamflows since the land was disturbed may have prevented the stream channel at valley-fill sites from reaching equilibrium. The 90-percent flow durations at valley-fill sites generally were 6-7 times greater than at unmined sites. Some valley-fill sites, however, exhibited streamflows similar to unmined sites, and some unmined sites exhibited streamflows similar to valley-fill sites. Daily streamflows from valley-fill sites generally are greater than daily streamflows from unmined sites during periods of low streamflow. Valley-fill sites have a greater percentage of base-flow and a lower percentage of flow from storm runoff than unmined sites. Water temperatures from a valley-fill site exhibited lower daily fluctuations and seasonal variations than water temperatures from an unmined site.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Reconnaissance of Stream Geomorphology, Low Streamflow, and Stream Temperature in the Mountaintop Coal-Mining Region, Southern West Virginia, 1999-2000