Paper No. 298-9
Presentation Time: 11:00 AM
INVESTIGATING THE IMPACT OF COAL REFUSE PILE REMOVAL ON WATER QUALITY AND MACROINVERTEBRATES IN LITTLE PAINT CREEK, PENNSYLVANIA
Pre- and post-remediation data collection was used to determine the effects of removing coal refuse piles on water quality and macroinvertebrate populations in Little Paint Creek (LPC), Pennsylvania. LPC is a 40-km long headwater stream in the Stonycreek River watershed in southwestern Pennsylvania and has been studied for over 15 years by various groups, including local university faculty and students, citizen watershed groups, and the PA Dept. of Environmental Protection. This study combines much of the accumulated data to present a more complete evaluation of the effectiveness of the remediation project. Although LPC has been designated a cold-water fishery and Wild Trout Water, the downstream 2 km have been heavily impacted by acid coal mine drainage and do not support the fish, crayfish, or other aquatic organisms found upstream. Sampling locations ranged from upstream unaffected sites (pH 7 – 8, low metal concentrations, abundant macroinvertebrates and fish) to downstream impacted sites (pH 4 – 5, elevated metal concentrations, decreased abundance and diversity of macroinvertebrates). Primary mine operations ceased in the watershed in 1962, although the presence of large coal refuse piles continued to impair water quality through contributions of acidic drainage and sediment to LPC. The largest of these piles was removed approximately ten years ago and associated settling ponds were filled in, causing an immediate improvement in water quality in LPC. Analysis of recent samples indicate overall improvement in water quality throughout the impacted portions of the stream, although to a lesser extent at the most downstream location, indicating the continued contribution of acidic drainage in this area. Despite the increased pH and decreased metal and sulfate concentrations, aquatic organisms are still rarely found at the farthest downstream sampling site.