Water Research Institute to Study Aluminum Filtration for Mines
The State Journal
3 April 2013
By Pam Kasey
Research into better ways to remove aluminum from coal mine
discharges funded by the state Department of Environmental
Protection is unrelated to the agency's proposed change to state
water quality criteria for aluminum.
The West Virginia Water Research Institute at West Virginia
University will study filtration methods to reduce levels of
aluminum discharged from mine reclamation sites, the university
announced April 2.
The $44,000 study is sponsored by the DEP's Office of Special
DEP has previously been allowed to meet "technology-based" limits
on aluminum in mine discharges at sites that were abandoned by
coal operators and have become the agency's responsibility,
explained Mike Sheehan of that office.
But now the agency is under a 2015 schedule to place water
quality-based permit limits on those discharges, and some of the
sites discharge aluminum at levels that would violate those
"We've identified some sites we're having problems with and we're
just trying to plan for the future to have something ready to go
when these new limits come along," Sheehan said.
Typical industrial filtration systems — ion exchange, reverse
osmosis and microfiltration membrane systems — are prohibitively
expensive to run on mine discharge. This study addresses that
The WVWRI study will be conducted at Monongalia County mines
abandoned by Z&F Development Co., Valley Mining Co. and
Stewartstown Coal Co.
Each site already has a treatment system for acid mine drainage.
The system at the Z&F site consists of hydrated lime feeding
and a series of baffled ponds. Addition of quick lime and a series
of settling ponds with curtain baffles make up the system at the
Valley Mining site. And treatment at the Stewartstown site
consists of four baffled ponds.
The WVWRI has identified four filtration media to test and will
test the four different media at each of the three sites.
The researchers will conduct weekly field sampling for the next
six months to determine the effectiveness of each of the four
treatment units. Findings will be presented to the Office of
The public hearing DEP held on March 27 on a proposed change to
the state's aluminum water quality criteria is unrelated to this
study, Sheehan said.