Influence of liming and topsoil thickness on vegetative growth and leaching potential of acid coal refuse

Daniels, W. L. ; Li, R. ; Stewart, B.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 7
Publication Date: Jan 1, 2000
Coal waste materials inhibit the direct establishment of vegetation due to adverse physical and chemical properties, particularly low water retention and high potential acidity. The Moss #1 coal refuse pile is located in Dickenson County, Virginia, and was idled in the late 1980s with little topsoil resources available for final closure. The refuse was acidic (Total S = 0.38%; pH = 3.6), black in color and high (70%) in coarse fragments. The refuse also had a low water-holding capacity (4.5% in < 2.0-mm fraction). A small plot experiment was established on the refuse pile to evaluate the effects of liming rates (50% and 100% of lime requirements) and topsoil thickness (15, 30 and 60 cm) on vegetative growth and leachate quality. Liming and topsoil amendment increased the surface soil pH from <4.0 to >6.0 over a two-year period, which resulted in greater vegetative cover and biomass than the control plots. All topsoil treatments resulted in greater vegetative cover and biomass than plots treated with lime only. This was due to improved surface soil physical and chemical properties. A topsoil treatment of 60 cm gave the thickest vegetative cover and biomass yield. Such a treatment, however, would be cost-prohibitive at this location. Applica¬tion of 27Mg ha`1 of lime to the refuse surface along with 15 cm of topsoil produced acceptable two-year vegetative cover and biomass, and this appeared to be the optimal treatment for this particular situation. Both liming and topsoil had no affect on leachate pH and the electrical conductivity of leachates collected below the plots. This suggests that surface revegetation will have little effect on the quality of water draining through the pile. Therefore, long-term water-treatment requirements may not be reduced by successfully revegetating the pile surface.
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