ABANDONED MINE LANDS AND RECLAMATION
After the boom of deep mines and the exhaustion of many surface mines in the North ForkWatershed, the land and water were left in ruin. Coal refuse was heaped in piles and long highwalls loomed on either side of the iron-stained river. Most of the mines in the vicinity were abandoned before 1977, and were therefore eligible for attention under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act. In 1993, AML began work on the two miles of land adjacent to the North Fork. The projects were divided into sections, Albert and Douglas, in order to distribute the cost over a few years. The following is a brief review of the work completed by AML in the Douglas/Coketon area.
Reclamation of the Douglas and Albert projects has transformed the land, but the North Fork of the Blackwater is still receiving large loads of AMD from both sites. Many of the passive water treatment systems designed to decrease the impact of AMD to the North Fork are not working as they were intended. The ALD treating water from mine #29 produced good results during the first two years of operation with water exiting the wetland drain measuring a pH of 6.8-7.3. In subsequent years, however, the pH dropped drastically and currently measures 3.1. Treatment ponds on the Albert site display a similar pattern. Currently, only one treatment system is releasing water with a pH higher than 4.0. Long Run, which receives water from the Albert water treatment systems, measures a pH of 2.7 as it enters the North Fork.
Other water quality concerns include sites that were not addressed at all during the reclamation projects in the 1990’s. These include several AMD seepage sited on the east side of the North Fork as well as a drainage from a deep mine at the edge of the town of Thomas. This drainage travels from the mine opening, through a culvert under Rt. 32 and down a riprap channel. A significant amount of aluminum precipitates as the water flows down and joins with the North Fork.