RO-based advanced treatment plant for West Virginia mines

A 5 MGD (19,000 m³/d) membrane-based wastewater treatment plant is to be built to serve a number of coal mines in West Virginia, USA, as a result of government action following pollution violations.

The US$ 200 million advance water treatment plant, using reverse osmosis, will be built by America’s largest underground coal producer Consol Energy Inc near Mannington to remove high levels of chloride in its wastewater. The company also agreed to pay a US$ 5.5 million civil penalty for Clean Water Act violations at six of its mines in West Virginia, as part of a settlement.

The Environmental Protection Agency, which took action against Consol with the Department of Justice and the state of West Virginia, said that, when completed, the plant would be the largest such water treatment plant in Appalachia, substantially reducing chloride and other salts in mining waters discharged to streams. It would eliminate more than 96 million pounds (43,545 tonnes) of total dissolved solids, including more than 11 million pounds (4,990 tonnes) of chloride.

The US government’s complaint, filed concurrently with the settlement, alleges that six Consol mines violated pollution discharge limits in their Clean Water Act permits hundreds of times over the last four years. The complaint alleges chronic exceeding of chloride discharge limits at the Blacksville No 2, Loveridge, Robinson Run and Four States mines in the Monongahela watershed and the Shoemaker and Windsor mines discharging into tributaries of the Ohio River.

The complaint also alleges that discharges of high amounts of chloride and total dissolved solids from Consol’s facilities at Blacksville No 2 and Loveridge contributed to severe impairment of aquatic life and conditions allowing golden algae to thrive in Dunkard Creek. In September 2009, a species of golden algae bloomed in Dunkard Creek killing thousands of fish, mussels and amphibians.