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Stream water quality in coal mined areas of the lower Cheat River Basin, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, during low-flow conditions, July 1997

Water-Resources Investigations Report 98-4258

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Abstract

The Cheat River Basin (fig. 1) is in the Allegheny Plateau and Allegheny Mountain Sections of the Appalachian Plateau Physiographic Province (Fenneman, 1946) and is almost entirely within the state of West Virginia. The Cheat River drains an area of 1,422 square miles in Randolph, Tucker, Preston, and Monongalia Counties in West Virginia and Fayette County in Pennsylvania. From its headwaters in Randolph County, W.Va., the Cheat River flows 157 miles north to the Pennsylvania state line, where it enters the Monongahela River. The Cheat River drainage comprises approximately 19 percent of the total Monongahela River Basin. The Cheat River and streams within the Cheat River Basin are characterized by steep gradients, rock channels, and high flow velocities that have created a thriving white-water rafting industry for the area. The headwaters of the Cheat River contain some of the most pristine and aesthetic streams in West Virginia. The attraction to the area, particularly the lower part of the Cheat River Basin (the lower 412 square miles of the basin), has been suppressed because of poor water quality. The economy of the Lower Cheat River Basin has been dominated by coal mining over many decades. As a result, many abandoned deep and surface mines discharge untreated acid mine drainage (AMD), which degrades water quality, into the Cheat River and many of its tributary streams. Approximately 60 regulated mine-related discharges (West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, 1996) and 185 abandoned mine sites (U.S. Office of Surface Mining, 1998) discharge treated and untreated AMD into the Cheat River and its tributaries. The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) Office of Abandoned Mine Lands and Reclamation (AML&R) has recently completed several AMD reclamation projects throughout the Cheat River Basin that have collectively improved the mainstem water quality. The AML&R office is currently involved in acquiring grant funds and designing treatment facilities for several additional AMD sites that adversely affect the Cheat River and its tributaries. To obtain the baseline water-quality information necessary to evaluate instream treatment and alternative methods for remediating AMD and its effects, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in cooperation with the WVDEP, collected stream water samples at 111 sites throughout the Lower Cheat River Basin during low-flow conditions from July 16-18, 1997. The data also will provide information on stream water quality in areas affected by AMD and thus would point to priority areas of focus, such as the sources of the AMD. This report presents the results of analyses of the samples collected in July 1997 and describes a process for ranking of stream water-quality degradation as a guide to water-resource managers considering AMD remediation activities.

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Additional publication details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Stream water quality in coal mined areas of the lower Cheat River Basin, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, during low-flow conditions, July 1997
Series title:
Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number:
98-4258
Year Published:
1999
Language:
English
Publisher:
U.S. Geological Survey
Contributing office(s):
Pennsylvania Water Science Center
Description:
8 p. :col. ill., maps (some col.) ;28 cm.
Country:
United States
State:
Pennsylvania, West Virginia