Acid mine drainage (AMD) occurs when water, oxygen, and bacteria come into contact with pyrite, a sulfide mineral present in coal seams. Water draining from coal mines is acidic and contains dissolved metals such as iron, aluminum, and manganese. Aquatic life, including insects and fish, are often unable to survive in streams receiving AMD from mined lands. As a result, many miles of streams within the Cheat River watershed are void of stream life due to the legacy of over a century of coal mining.
Acid Mine Drainage impaired streams such as Fickey Run are uninhabitable for aquatic life and are a blight on beautiful mountain streams of the Appalachian Mountains.
Friends of the Cheat maintains a water quality database of stream sites throughout the watershed. Monitoring efforts catalogue AMD sources in the lower Cheat to provide accessible, accurate, and manageable data that will serve long term goals of state, federal, and academic partners. FOC has focused on the following major contributors of acid mine drainage to the watershed: Greens, Sovern, Bull, Pringle, Morgan, Heather, and Lick Runs. This information allows for the drafting of Watershed Based Plans and for the assessment of AMD treatment applications.
AMD reconnaissance field work includes hiking in or near streams, recording basic water quality parameters in the field (temperature, conductivity, pH), and measuring flow. Water samples are also collected and taken to a laboratory to be analyzed for acidity and metal concentrations.
FOC personnel spend many hours in the field collecting data from some of the most impaired streams in the state and checking on the progress of our active and passive treatment systems.