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Characterization of Soil Developing in Reclaimed Upper Freeport Coal Surface Mines
- Lanham, Jennifer, Sencindiver, John, Skousen, Jeff
- Southeastern naturalist 2015 v.14 no.sp7 pp. 58-64
- B horizons, acid mine drainage, acidity, aluminum, calcium, carbon, cation exchange capacity, coal, electrical conductivity, iron, magnesium, nitrogen, nitrogen content, pH, potassium, road construction, sodium, soil profiles, soil sampling, soil texture, streams, sulfur, surface mining, water holding capacity, water quality, watersheds, West Virginia
- A new highway, called Appalachian Corridor H, will pass through the Beaver Creek watershed in Tucker County, WV. Some of this area has been affected by surface mining of Upper Freeport Coal. The resulting mined lands are currently producing acid mine drainage and have the potential to produce more if disturbed. To document soil development and the effect that disturbance of these mined lands might have on water quality, we evaluated the properties of the soils that will potentially be affected by highway construction. Six sampling sites were located on mine soils and on adjacent undisturbed soils. After describing soil profiles, we sampled each horizon for laboratory analyses. We analyzed the soil samples for pH, electrical conductivity , carbon, nitrogen, sulfur, and acid-base account. Other soil properties like texture, water holding capacity, acidity, cation exchange capacity, and elemental concentrations (Al, Ca, Mg, Na, K, Fe) were determined but not reported herein. Most of the mine soils had weakly developed B horizons and were classified as either entisols or inceptisols. The pH values ranged from 3.2–4.8. Electrical conductivity and total nitrogen were low. Total sulfur was generally low, ranging from 0.1% to 0.17%. However, one mine soil had sulfur values >1% in the lowest horizon. We sampled two overburden rock cores and analyzed them for acid-base account characteristics. These data support the mine soil data, which indicate that acid materials occur in this region and may produce additional acid if unweathered rocks and mine soils are exposed to the atmosphere during road construction. Recommendations for reclamation of the disturbed materials will be developed.