Streamline - Winter 2015 - (Page 23)

Coal BY SCOTT MCNALLY, SOURCE WATER TECHNICIAN powerful resource that has played a pivotal role in shaping the world we know today. In Virginia, the first recorded discovery of coal was along the James River in 1701. By 1748, commercial production of coal in the greater Richmond area had begun in the Eastern Coalfields. Shortly after, mining began as well in the Valley and Southwest Virginia Coalfields. After the Civil War, around the 1880s, Virginia's coal economy began to pick up major steam with the installment of major railroads throughout the state. One of the most famous mines in the state, the Pocahontas mine, is known for having a coal seam 13 feet thick. By World War I, the Pocahontas mine was supplying a major portion of the coal used by the U.S. Navy. From the 1950s to present day, coal has only been produced in the Southwest fields. Extending from Pennsylvania to Alabama, this region is part of the very productive Appalachian Coal Basin. CoaL IS a Virginia's history of coal mining is a source of pride for many communities, as it was a major ingredient in making the industrial revolution possible in this state. However, as with most things good, there is usually a price to pay. In this case, it is the impact on another facet of Virginian pride, our beautiful forests, mountainous landscapes and water sources. History aside, the story of coal starts with the various extraction processes. Coal mines are grouped into two main categories: surface and underground. There are a few different types of surface mining, which are all aimed at extracting coal from seams near the surface. Strip mining and open-pit mining are two of the most common along with the infamous process of mountaintop removal. Strip and open-pit mining are both somewhat similar and involve the removal of overburden from the surface. Explosives are commonly used to break up rock formations above and around the coal seams. Mountaintop removal involves using explosives to remove the upper portion of a summit to expose coal seams below. Mountaintop is not recommended under any circumstance and has severe consequences for surface and groundwater. Underground mining of coal is performed by two basic methods, longwall and room and pillar mining. They both require the installation of a shaft for workers to reach the coal and systems for moving material out of the mine. Explosives are typically used in room and pillar mining, while longwall mining utilizes mechanical removal of coal. Surface and underground mines both have their fair share of environmental impacts on water sources. Acid mine drainage is one of the most common impacts and occurs when mining exposes metal sulfides. These are dissolved into water to form toxic and highly acidic runoff. Underground mines increase the chance that this water will be able to interact with groundwater and contaminate the water table. Surface mines also increase the likelihood of groundwater contamination, but they are more likely to contaminate surface waters. Acid mine drainage is one the 23

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Streamline - Winter 2015

From the President: Performance Evaluation
From the Executive Director: Save the Date!
Professional or Job Holder: Which Will You Be?
Emergencies: Do You Have A Plan?
Finding Your Way
Hearing Protection – Keep Your Employees Safe
Economic Opportunity: USDA Rural Development/Virginia
Rate Setting – It’s Easy?
Chronic Leaks
NRWA Recap
Throwing My Loop: Fresh Water
Booster Club
eLearning Benefits
Membership Application
Do You Know What Your VRWA Benefits Are?
2015-2016 Membership Directory
Board of Directors
VRWA Committees
VRWA Members Corner
Index to Advertisers/

Streamline - Winter 2015