ENVIRONMENTAL GEOLOGY OF PROPERTY WITH A 200 YEAR HISTORY OF MIXED USE IN BREATHITT COUNTY KENTUCKY
The property has an exposed, mined wall of coal at one of the highest points on the property. This mining operation of ~50 years ago includes a siltation pond just below the coal "wall" that has a small effluent stream that drains directly into a natural stream, one of several on the property. The siltation pond is nearly filled with sediment. Inductively coupled plasma – optical emission spectroscopy (ICP-OES) bulk sediment data indicates arsenic concentrations of approximately 3 to 28 ppm and a strong positive correlation with bulk total Fe content is observed suggesting As is adsorbed onto Fe-oxides. Barium concentrations vary from 235 to 544 ppm and provide an environmental reference for future hydraulic fracturing activities. Natural gas wells have been left in an unmaintained condition by the operating company. Heavy corrosion is observed on some piping connections and signs of minor leakage and some staining were observed near one well.
Scanning electron microscopy indicates a white clay unit exposed in one stream contains spherules and is enriched in calcium, this is interpreted as an ash pile (wood ash). A blue-gray lake clay was also observed at lower elevations on the property and may be an important aquitard. Logging operations that focused on oak and poplar trees have left degraded roads as recent as 2012-2013. During metal detection scanning on the property, numerous metal historic artifacts were found such as an axe head, overall buttons, and barb wire from past farming.
The primary environmental concerns are arsenic contamination with future drinking water use, an unconstrained history associated with natural gas wells, soil erosion and the long term fate of the siltation pond dam. Such investigations aid land owners in long term management options in an economically disadvantaged region.