Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2013WV208B

Using geomorphic landform design principles to reduce selenium loads from West Virginia valley fills

Institute: West Virginia
Year Established: 2013 Start Date: 2013-03-01 End Date: 2015-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $45,856 Total Non-Federal Funds: $91,800

Principal Investigators: Ben Mack, Leslie Hopkinson, John Quaranta

Abstract: Selenium is a naturally occurring element in the coal seams of southern West Virginia and can be toxic in excessive concentrations. For WV coal mines, selenium discharges must meet the chronic aquatic life standard. Many surface mines and tailings facilities require treatment to meet this value. To date, little research has been performed to determine if selenium concentrations can be reduced through physical means. This work will determine if the selenium concentrations resulting from valley fill effluent can be controlled through geomorphic landform design principles. The two specific objectives include the following: 1) quantify selenium concentration outflow curves for southern West Virginia overburden; and, 2) determine changes in selenium concentrations in valley fill discharge due to the use of geomorphic landform design principles. The first objective will be completed through a leaching study. Three samples of overburden collected from three independent sites in southern West Virginia will be examined under both saturated and unsaturated conditions. Each combination will be replicated, resulting in 12 columns for study. The concentration versus time curve (i.e. breakthrough curve) will be developed for each column, examining the influence of saturated/unsaturated conditions and overburden sample type. The experimental data will be used to model changes in selenium concentrations due to the use of geomorphic landform design principles as applied to valley fill design. Results will aide in the prediction of long-term selenium release (loadings) from valley fills in southern West Virginia.