Researchers at West Virginia University are studying the effects of large-scale mine applications of coal combustion byproducts (CCBs) on groundwater chemistry. In particular, the study is looking at the ability of coal ash to eliminate or reduce acid mine drainage.

“The use of CCBs in coal mine environments is far reaching and affects the environment slowly but permanently,”said Jennifer Simmons, program coordinator with the West Virginia Water Research Institute at WVU and project researcher.

“We are investigating how past and present CCB management practices have impacted groundwater quality by studying sites throughout the mid-Atlantic region,”explained Simmons.”Understanding the implications of using large-scale CCB applications in coal mine environments will allow us to make better decisions in the future regarding the use of CCBs in mine land reclamation. It will enable us to better predict how these materials will perform in acid environments, which will help us select the most suitable materials for acid mine drainage remediation projects without the risk of leaching toxic metals.”

Joining Simmons on the research is Louis McDonald, assistant professor of Environmental Soil Chemistry with WVU s Division of Plant and Soil Sciences.

“While most coal combustion byproducts application sites are monitored for changes in groundwater chemistry, few studies are conducted to show the effects of CCBs on groundwater chemistry,”McDonald said.

Ongoing research activities include assembling existing data, characterizing the chemical and physical properties of the CCB and its impacted waters and conducting a laboratory analysis of the leachability of metals from CCBs under acidic conditions.

The project is funded by the Combustion Byproducts Recycling Consortium (CBRC) with the assistance of the National Mine Land Reclamation Center (NMLRC) at WVU and has a total budget of $152, 847. The CBRC is a five-year program funded by the U.S. Department of Energy-National Energy Technology Laboratory (DOE-NETL) and is managed by WVU s NMLRC . The objective of the CBRC is to develop and demonstrate technologies to address issues related to the recycling of byproducts associated with the coal combustion process.