Date of Graduation
Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
Civil and Environmental Engineering
Acid mine drainage (AMD) is a form of water pollution generated when water and oxygen come into contact with sulfide minerals, forming metal ions, sulfuric acid, and sulphates in solution. AMD is characterized by its toxic metals content and low pH, both of which are an environmental concern. The treatment of AMD separates the contaminants into a high-water content sludge. This sludge is a pure waste product under current evaluation for alternative uses as well as improvements to storage and treatment processes. This thesis focused on analyzing the potential for AMD sludge to be used in recently reclaimed lands as an enhancement to initial soil development. This research was separated into two parts, The evaluation of soil development at a reclaimed site, and the evaluation of using of AMD sludge as a soil amendment. The first part of this research was the observation of soil development at a previously treated reclaimed surface mine located in Upshur County, West Virginia. The soil profile was analyzed through a qualitative soil pit analysis in accordance with USDA-NRCS sampling guidelines. Observations on the present soil conditions within the site showed no evidence of AMD within the soil profile, and it showed that the site could be suffering from separate issues with soil development due to a thin topsoil horizon consisting of 2 inches (5cm) of depth overtop a compacted overburden fill. The second part of this research was the construction and analysis of a field scale growth study. The study consisted of five mixtures of AMD sludge to topsoil at 0%, 25%, 50%, 75%, and 100% AMD by volume, each replicated three times, creating a total study of fifteen 3.28 ft by 3.28 ft (1 m by 1 m) growth plots. Plots were seeded with a grass mixture recommended and used by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection. Plots were analyzed by ground cover, moisture content, conductivity, and temperature. Results showed that AMD mixed soils acted similar to high organic content soils, holding from 5% to 30% more moisture within the matrix versus just topsoil. Soil conductivity, an indicator of available nutrients and salinity, showed values ranging from 0.05 to 0.35 mS/cm over topsoil values. A mixture of 25%AMD performed from 1% to 5% better in grass coverage when compared to topsoil values. Temperature had no substantial difference by soil mixture. Data shows that studies should be continued, and that AMD sludge may be added to soil matrixes without adverse growing effects.
Watters, Brady, "Exploring the Usage of Acid Mine Drainage Sludge as a Soil Amendment for Reclaimed Mine Lands" (2023). Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 11713.