Acid Mine Drainage or AMD is caused by surface mining, deep mining or coal refuse piles and is typically highly acidic with elevated levels of dissolved metals. The acid and metals in the water are toxic to fish, aquatic insects, and other life in the stream causing impairments. More miles of streams in Clinton County are polluted by AMD than by any other form of pollution.
How AMD is Formed
When water and oxygen come in contact with pyrite, a mineral found in and around coal, they react to form sulfuric acid. The sulfuric acid combines with water and moves downstream dissolving metals like iron, aluminum, and manganese. The acid and metals are harmful to the life that exists in the stream. There are several watersheds in Clinton County that are impacted by AMD including: Beech Creek, Tangascootack Creek, Kettle Creek, Drury Run, Little Birch Island Run, and Cooks Run. The West Branch of the Susquehanna and some if its direct tributaries are also impacted by AMD.
Pictured above on the left is a tributary to the South Fork of Tangascootack Creek. The orange color in the water is iron oxide which is commonly found in streams polluted by AMD. The AMD may surface with groundwater from seeps as seen in the picture on the right. This site is also located in the Tangascootack watershed.
Acid Mine Drainage Treatment
It is in our interest to treat AMD because if left untreated AMD can cause problems like:
- Loss of plant and animal life
- Depleted monetary income that can be gained from stream sports including fishing
- Reduction in aesthetic value of streams
- Decrease property value in AMD watersheds
- Risk and safety hazards associated with abandoned mines and refuse