This report is designed to provide the nontechnical audience with some of the results of an 'Assessment of Water Quality in Streams Draining Coal-Producing Areas in Ohio,' by Christine L. Pfaff and others (published by the U.S. Geological Survey in 1981). The purpose of the assessment was to document the occurrence of certain chemical constituents in streams in Ohio's coal region and determine to what extent the presence of these constituents was related to mining.
Ohio's most productive coal seams are associated with the Allegheny and Monongahela Formation of Pennsylvanian age. These coals were mined by underground methods very early in Ohio's history. Underground mining continues in the state today; however, surface mining now produces significantly more coal. Acid mine drainage from unreclaimed surface and underground mines has affected surface-water quality in Ohio for many years, and recently has led to establishment of reclamation programs by State and Federal agencies.
In their assessment of Ohio's coal region, Pfaff and others sampled 150 sites in small watersheds underlain by the Allegheny and the Monogahela Formations. Each site represented only one of four land-use types (active-mine, unmined, abandoned-mine, or reclaimed).
Statistical analysis of data from the unmined, abandoned-mine, and reclaimed sites showed that there were significant differences in pH, specific conductance, alkalinity, and concentrations of sulfate and aluminum among abandoned-mine and unmined sites. Reclaimed sites had average pH values and aluminum concentrations similar to those unmined sites. Average specific conductance and sulfate concentrations were about the same for reclaimed abandoned-mine sites, but were significantly lower at unmined sites; specific conductance and sulfate concentration, in fact, proved to be reliable indicators of basins that had been disturbed by mining. Alkalinity was significantly different for all three land uses, the highest values being found at reclaimed sites. The relationship revealed by this study may be useful in designing future water-quality sampling programs in Ohio's coal region.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Overview of surface-water quality in Ohio's coal regions