In 1991, 99 of the 102 coal mines in the anthracite coal fields of Pennsylvania that discharged 1.0 cubic foot per second or more when water-quality samples were collected in 1975 were revisited. Water was not discharging from 15 of these 99 mines in 1991. Discharge, water temperature, specific conductance, pH, dissolved oxygen, sulfate, iron, manganese, alkalinity, and acidity were measured in water samples collected at 84 mines to assess changes in water quality from 1975 to 1991. The pH increased in water samples of 64 of the 81 mines. However, acidity was essentially unchanged. Concentrations of iron decreased in water discharge samples from 57 of 82 mines, manganese concentrations decreased in samples from 23 of 26 mines, and sulfate concentrations decreased in samples from 62 of 77 mines. The median change in sulfate was a decrease of 139 milligrams per liter. Alkalinity increased in water discharge samples from 43 mines, remained the same at 22 mines, and decreased at 14 mines. In 1975, the samples were collected during high base flow in the spring; in 1991, samples were collected during lower-than-normal base flow in the fall. This may have affected the comparison.
Many mine discharges have elevated concentrations of aluminum, calcium, cobalt, iron, lithium, magnesium, manganese, nickel, strontium, zinc, and sulfate.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Water quality of large discharges from mines in the anthracite region of eastern Pennsylvania