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Effects of land use and surficial geology on flow and water quality of streams in the coal-mining region of southwestern Indiana, October 1979 through September 1980

Water-Resources Investigations Report 85-4234

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Abstract

An assessment of streams in the coal-mining region of southwestern Indiana was done from October 1979 through September 1980 during stable stream flows to provide baseline hydrologic and water-quality information and to document the effect of several natural and human-induced factors on water quality in the region.

Streams in southwestern Indiana are generally well buffered against acidification from acid-mine drainage because they flow upon calcareous unconsolidated surficial deposits and bedrock. The pH of streams draining forested, agricultural, and reclaimed mined watersheds ranged from 6.3 to 8.8, which is generally within the range of natural waters. The pH of streams draining unreclaimed mined watersheds ranged from 3.8 to 7.9, which was much more variable than for streams draining lands used for other activities.

Concentrations of major dissolved constituents in streams affected by coal mining were significantly higher than in streams unaffected by mining. The principal cause of the elevated concentrations of dissolved constituents was the oxidation of pyrite and marcasite and subsequent dissolution of calcite and dolomite. The principal water type of streams draining forested and agricultural watersheds was calcium bicarbonate, whereas the principal water types of streams draining mined watersheds were magnesium sulfate and magnesiumcalcium sulfate.

Concentrations of boron, iron, manganese, nickel, and zinc were generally higher in streams draining mined areas than in streams draining forested and agricultural watersheds. Median concentrations of iron and manganese were lower in streams draining reclaimed mined watersheds than in streams draining unreclaimed mined watersheds; this suggests that post-1967 surface-mine reclamation techniques have been effective at reducing concentrations of these metals in streams. Concentrations of aluminum, iron, manganese, nickel, and zinc increased significantly as pH decreased below 6.0 in streams draining unreclaimed mined watersheds. The elevated concentrations of metals in waters and the low pH result from the oxidation of the sulfide in pyrite to sulfate, which releases dissolved ferrous iron, other metals, and acidity into the water.

Median suspended-sediment concentrations of samples from streams draining agricultural and mined watersheds were 1.5 and 5.4 times those of streams draining forested watersheds. Suspended sediment in streams was composed primarily of silt and clay-sized particles.

The effect of surficial geology on stream quality was evident for several dissolved constituents in forested and agricultural watersheds. In general, pH and concentrations of alkalinity and calcium were significantly higher in streams draining the Wisconsin glacial province than in streams draining the Illinoian glacial province and unglaciated regions. The higher pH and concentrations of these constituents suggests that there is greater dissolution of carbonate minerals in the Wisconsin glacial province than the other regions. Median concentrations of arsenic, lead, and manganese for streams draining the Wisconsin glacial province were significantly lower than for those constituents in streams draining the Illinoian province and unglaciated region. The median cadmium concentration for streams draining the Wisconsin glacial province was lower than for streams draining the unglaciated region. These differences may have been due to lower solubilities of metal and trace elements at higher pH values in the Wisconsin glacial province than in the Illinoian glacial province and the unglaciated region.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Effects of land use and surficial geology on flow and water quality of streams in the coal-mining region of southwestern Indiana, October 1979 through September 1980
Series title:
Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number:
85-4234
Year Published:
1985
Language:
English
Publisher:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Indianapolis, IN
Description:
vi, 49 p.
Country:
United States
State:
Indiana
Online Only (Y/N):
N
Additional Online Files (Y/N):
N