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Effects of coal-mine drainage on stream water quality in the Allegheny and Monongahela River Basins — Sulfate transport and trends

February 1, 2001

In 1980, the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers transported a sulfate load of 1.2 million and 1.35 million tons, respectively, to the Ohio River at Pittsburgh. The Monongahela River Basin had a sulfate yield of 184 tons per square mile per year compared to 105 tons per square mile per year for the Allegheny River Basin. Within the large Allegheny and Monongahela River Basins, the subbasins with the highest sulfate yields in tons per square mile per year were those of Redstone Creek (580), Blacklick Creek (524), Conemaugh River (292), Buffalo Creek (247), Stonycreek River (239), Two Lick Creek (231), Dunkard Creek (212), and Loyalhanna Creek (196). These basins have been extensively mined. The sulfate yields of Brokenstraw and Conewango Creeks, which are outside the area underlain by coal and thus contain no coal mines, were 25 and 24 tons per square mile per year, respectively.

Within the Allegheny and Monongahela River Basins, seven sites showed significant trends in sulfate concentration from 1965 to 1995. Dunkard Creek and Stonycreek River show significant upward trends in sulfate concentration. These trends appear to be related to increases in coal production in the two basins from 1965 to 1995. Blacklick Creek at Josephine and Loyalhanna Creek at Loyalhanna Dam show significant downward trends in sulfate concentration between 1965 and 1995. Blacklick Creek had a 50-percent decrease in sulfate concentration. Coal production in the Blacklick Creek Basin, which reached its peak at almost 4 million tons per year in the 1940's, dropped to less than 1 million tons per year by 1995. In the Loyalhanna Creek Basin, which had a 41-percent decrease in sulfate concentration, coal-production rates dropped steadily from more than 1.5 million tons per year in the 1940's to less than 200,000 tons per year in 1995.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2000
Title Effects of coal-mine drainage on stream water quality in the Allegheny and Monongahela River Basins — Sulfate transport and trends
DOI 10.3133/wri994208
Authors James I. Sams, Kevin M. Beer
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series Number 99-4208
Index ID wri994208
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization National Water Quality Assessment Program