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Lower Cheat, West Virginia - Nonpoint Source Success Story

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map of Lower Cheat River watershed

From its headquarters in Pocahontas County, West Virginia, the Cheat River flows 157 miles northward to the Pennsylvania state line. In its lower 20 miles, many of the streams in the Watershed have been so severely degraded by acid mine drainage (AMD) that they are effectively dead. Most of this damage is caused by underground and surface mines that were abandoned decades ago. The friends of the cheat have completed two passive systems on Beaver Creek. These projects were funded through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Office of Surface Mining Clean Stream Initiative grants. The restoration projects included limestone leach beds and channels near the head of Beaver Creek and another using limestone check dams backed with steel slag at McCarty Highwall.


Cheat River

Friends of the Cheat formed in the spring of 1994 in response to a significant AMD blowout from an underground coal mine that had been recently closed.  The founders immediately recognized that the scope of the AMD problem in the watershed extended far beyond this single catastrophe, and that all available resources would need to be coordinated to have a serious impact.  Local industry, state and federal agencies, and other citizen groups were solicited for assistance.  This effort led to the formation of the River of Promise (ROP) task force.

Implementation Plan

North Fork Greens Run: Open limestone channel running over 800 feet through the woods. Notice the coloration starting to show iron precipitate.

Over 20 groups have signed onto the "River of Promise: A Shared Commitment for the Restoration of the Cheat River, West Virginia."  This began in May 1995, with initial signatories Friends of the Cheat, West Virginia Rivers Coalition, Anker energy, West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP). West Virginia division of Natural Resources, and the U.S. Department of Interior's Office of Surface Mining. Subsequent 1996 signatories included more state and federal agencies, academia, conservation groups, and local government. Meeting quarterly and chaired by Friends of the Cheat, the ROP task force coordinates and initiates AMD remediation projects throughout the watershed. The National Mine Land reclamation Center is an integral ROP partner, gathering water quality data, developing conceptual designs for projects and conducting post construction monitoring and evaluation.

Mine Reclamation

Trap design using stone in Gabian baskets to help aerate the water. It then flows through the short open limestone channel into the setting basin.

As a result of ROP coordination efforts, various state, federal, and academic agencies have worked together to develop and implement projects in the Lower Cheat Watershed to neutralize acid and reduce metals from abandoned mines. The Lower Cheat is considered to be one of the most severely impacted rivers in the state, as well as a large contributor of AMD to the Monongahela River Watershed.  West Virginia's Nonpoint Source Program has partnered with the Abandoned Mine Lands Program to combine land and water reclamation.  These two WVDEP programs have funded the construction of reclamation projects in Greens Run and Pringles Run. Greens Run, for example, is one of the primary acid sources to the Cheat River. The water at Greens Run, because of the location of an abandoned mine, has a measured pH of 2.8 and an average acidity of 855mg/L.  Efforts are also being made here with the construction of open limestone channels and limestone/steel stag check dams.


Pringles Run Drainage - outlet of the vertical flow pond

While it is still too early to know the full extent of the environmental result of these projects, recent data collected at the head of Cheat Lake shows that this once-acidic lake has a pH that ranges from around 6.5 to 7.5. Cheat Lake is now home to bass tournaments, a test to improved water quality.

Looking to the Future

The Nonpoint Source Program, with $424,378 in Section 319 grant funding, has supported seven projects in the Lower Cheat watershed with the National Mine Lands Reclamation Center and two projects in the Cheat with the Abandoned Mine Lands Program in WVDEP. Some of these projects have been completed while others are still under construction. The completed projects are reducing acid loads.

Mid-Atlantic Nonpoint Source Pollution Initiative

EPA Region 3
Philadelphia, PA 19103
May 2005

For more information on nonpoint source pollution, TMDLs and restoration practices, please check out EPA's Region 3 Nonpoint Source Program web page.

North Fork Greens Run Leach bed and outflow soon after completion in Fall 2003

Partnerships and Coordination
Contact Information

Alvan Gale
West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection Exit EPA Click for Disclaimer
Division of Water and Waste Management
601 57th Street SE
Charleston, WV 25304

Keith Pitzer (kpitzer@cheat.org)
Friends of the Cheat Exit EPA Click for Disclaimer
119 South Prince Street
Kingwood, WV 26537

Fred Suffian (suffian.fred@epa.gov)
U.S. EPA Region 3
1650 Arch Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103

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