Date of Graduation


Document Type

Problem/Project Report

Degree Type



Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources


Civil and Environmental Engineering

Committee Chair

John Quaranta

Committee Co-Chair

Hema J. Siriwardane

Committee Member

Lian-Shin Lin

Committee Member

Leslie Hopkinson


In 1999, Royal Scot Minerals based in Greenbrier County, West Virginia, USA went bankrupt and abandoned a 47-acre coal refuse pile, which currently presents environmental and economic issues. The primary objective of this problem report is to identify an effective approach to create a growth layer that establishes a sustainable vegetation on this pile. Using available data in the relevant literature, this report evaluates topsoil substitutes using three materials: papermill sludge, sewage sludge and lumber mill waste application for coal refuse piles. Like papermill sludge, sewage sludge reduces erosion/sedimentation by improving the soil water holding capacity and decreases the surface runoff, to limit the acid mine drainage generation by lowering the soil pH, and to raise the soil organic matter, which is fundamental for revegetation. Although they present some similarities, sewage sludge offers greater advantages that may be more cost efficient given that the supply is located closer to the site and only requires additional lime/limestone for successful revegetation. Overall, when comparing these three substitutes in the context of the current conditions and objectives at the Royal Scot site, it appears that sewage sludge offers the best results, followed by the papermill sludge. Lumber mill waste also presents a potential material for coal refuse revegetation; however, further research is necessary to confirm its fitness.