KWRRI Research Reports


High concentrations of suspended solids in coal mine sedimentation ponds are a factor in lowering water quality. This study focuses on the influence dissolved solids have on concentration and settling of suspended solids. Water samples from sedimentation ponds in Eastern and Western Kentucky were used to evaluate water composition in such ponds. Spoil samples from surface mine sites in both parts of the state were used to evaluate water composition released from the spoils upon introducing water.

The results demonstrate that water quality emanating from coal spoils of Eastern and Western coal mines is dependent on the type of spoil and/or geologic strata represented. Water composition of randomly selected sedimentation ponds revealed that the relationship between electrical conductance (EC) in mmhos cm-1 and ionic strength (I) of water is I = 0.012 [EC]. Furthermore, it was determined that there is a linear relationship between the repulsive index, RI = [(0.012)(EC)]-1/2 (based somewhat loosely on double-layer theory), and suspended solids.

Kinetic data on settling of suspended solids has shown that upon increasing the ionic strength of the water (consequently decreasing RI), the rate of settling increased dramatically. The critical RI at which complete removal of all suspended solids, estimated by graphic extrapolation, is shown to be dependent on the percent base saturation. The data also demonstrate that the critical RI (RI at maximum flocculation) varies depending on the spoils mineralogical and chemical composition.

The overall study shows that decreases in suspended solids in coal mine sedimentation ponds can be brought about by relatively small increases in ionic strength. Several approaches as to how one might increase water ionic strength in sediment ponds are discussed.

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Funding Information

The research on which this report is based was financed in part by the U. S. Department of the Interior, as authorized by the Water Research and Development Act of 1978 (P.L. 95-467).