Acid Mine Drainage in Lower Salem, OH

Tej Gautam, Petroleum Engineering and Geology, Marietta College


Acid mine drainage problem is very common in coal mining areas. Mine waste usually has pyrite mineral. Chemical reaction of pyrite with water and oxygen forms sulfuric acid and dissolved iron. Sulfuric acid can further dissolve heavy metals such as copper, lead and mercury and pollute any nearby surface water and groundwater system. Iron can precipitate forming red, orange, or yellow sediments.

There are abandoned surface coal mines in Lower Salem, OH. Pittsburgh coal bed, the lowermost unit of the Monongahela Group, is mined in this area. Monogahela Group also consists Meigs Creek and Uniontown coal beds. However, general lithology of this group consists of sandstones, mudstones, shales, limestone, coals and clays.

Key teaching points:
  1. Identifying acid mine drainage (AMD) problems
  2. Surface and groundwater contamination
  3. Approaches for mitigating AMD problems

How this example is used in the classroom:
This is a class project for hydrogeology class at upper undergraduate level. The class will visit the site, collect water sample representing polluted and non-polluted surface water locations, perform lab analysis and compare results with EPA public drinking water standards. A topographic map will be provided. Read more about the course Environmental Hydrology.


Background material about acid mine drainage:

EPA standards:

General geologic information:

Supporting Files

Acid Mine Drainage Class Project (Acrobat (PDF) 319kB Apr11 14)