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Contact and Mailing Information

National Research Center for Coal & Energy
P.O. Box 6064
385 Evansdale Drive
West Virginia University
Morgantown, WV 26506
ph 304/293-2867
fax 304/293-3749
NRCCE Enquiries


NRCCE 30th anniversary web site

2005 NRCCE News Archives

At Dec. 15 holiday open house WVU's NRCCE to unveil movie set panels used in Spider Man 2

The public is invited to the West Virginia University National Research Center for Coal and Energy's holiday open house -- and unveiling of Spider Man 2 movie set panels -- at 3 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 15.

The panels, donated by Columbia Pictures to the NRCCE, depict West Virginia's energy industries. The artwork was copied from the original 1940s mural by Robert Lepper that is hanging in WVU's White Hall.

The work is considered one of the most important examples of Machine Age Art in America.

A replica of the mural was painted onto eight separate pieces of canvas and afixed to a wall of a bank in the latest Spider Man movie. It can be seen during a clip in which Peter Parker and Aunt May go to the bank. It also serves as the background for a fight between Spider Man and Dr. Octavius.

WVU officials commissioned Lepper to do the painting in the then new Mineral Industries Building in 1940. It was "discovered" a couple of years ago by an art consultant working on the movie.

The unveiling is scheduled for 3 p.m., first floor lobby of the NRCCE, with the open house continuing until 5 p.m.

View the invitation and more about the Lepper Mural


WVU NRCCE offers 'sweet' rewards at state fair Return to top

10 August 2005 - The West Virginia State Fair usually conjures up images of cotton candy, carnival rides and smiling families.

This year, West Virginia University's National Research Center for Coal and Energy is adding cookies and feuding to the mix.

NRCCE will host activities Wednesday, Aug. 17, and Thursday, Aug. 18, in the WVU Mountaineer Country Tent, where kids and families can participate in everything from chocolate chip cookie mining to a "Family Feud"-style game.

Mining the cookie

"We wanted to do something that would get families involved and promote math and science education to children," said Trina Wafle, NRCCE associate director.

Chocolate chip cookie mining teaches kids how the coal industry works while giving them a chance to sell their "coal" chips for prizes.

At 2 and 4 p.m. both days, two families will face off in a question-and-answer game featuring energy and environmental research. Families play for the opportunity to win a basket with a grand prize of autographed WVU athletic items.

"We figured the kids probably spend all day arguing over things like which rides to ride first or who got the bigger ice cream cone," said Cassie Waugh, a WVU journalism graduate student and NRCCE intern, who created the game. "We thought parents might want to find a different outlet for all that energy, where they might even walk away with a prize."

"When people show an interest not only in our games and prizes but also in the research we do at the NRCCE, it makes attending the fair very rewarding," Wafle added.


Defense Department Seeks Alternative Fuels Partners Return to top

9 August 2005: Morgantown, W.Va. - With oil prices topping $62 a barrel, an official with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) told a national audience of fuel researchers that the department is actively looking for partners to build a commercial plant to produce alternative liquid fuels from domestic resources such as coal. "If you build it, we will come," said Bill Harrison, Senior Advisor to the Assistant Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Advanced Systems and Concepts.

Appearing at the annual meeting of the Consortium for Fossil Fuel Science August 1-3 at Stonewall Resort in Roanoke, W.Va., Harrison told the group about the DoD's Clean Fuels Initiative.

While the DoD is interested in all energy sources, currently the nearest term approach appears to be to gasify coal to produce fuels via a process called Fischer Tropsch (F-T), he said.

"This is the type of opportunity we plan to share with our state legislators and others," said Richard Bajura, director of the National Research Center for Coal and Energy at West Virginia University. WVU has been a member of the CFFS since the consortium was created in 1986.

"Developing alternative fuels through coal gasification offers the promise of starting new industries in West Virginia that could also increase demand for West Virginia coal," Bajura said.

The defense department is working with several federal agencies—the Department of Energy, Department of Transportation, Department of the Interior, and EPA—a variety of industries—power generation, chemicals, coal, and others—and academic programs like the CFFS which includes West Virginia University, the University of Kentucky, University of Utah, University of Pittsburgh, and Auburn University.

Harrison said the DoD's goal is to reduce the military's reliance on foreign oil. The Clean Fuels Initiative includes the Total Energy Development (TED) program to promote commercial production of fuels for the DoD and the Battlefield Use Fuel of the Future (BUFF) program to evaluate, demonstrate, certify, and implement clean fuels for all DoD tactical equipment including ground, aircraft, and ships.

"The BUFF program will need to purchase approximately 20 million gallons of alternative fuel over the program's lifetime," he said. Currently the DoD uses approximately 370,000 barrels per day of fuel worldwide.

The U.S. is increasingly relying on foreign sources not only for crude but also for refined products as well, said Harrison. "We haven't built a refinery in this country in more than 30 years," he said. "Also, the mega refineries we do have are all on the coasts which make them vulnerable to hurricanes and terrorist attacks," he added.

Harrison cautioned that any alternative fuel has to be commercially viable.

"Twenty-five years ago the U.S. government spent millions on synfuels that went nowhere because there was limited investment by industry to see synfuels succeed. Companies that put their own money at risk are more dedicated to the success of the venture. So our strategy is not to write big checks, but rather to bring the right mix of industries together to make processes commercially viable," he said.

He added that the department is only interested in technologies that are environmentally sensitive which is another major difference between today's program and those of 25 years ago. Coal gasification has received a nod from environmental groups such as the National Resource Defense Fund.

One strategy Harrison suggested was to link multiple types of plants into one.

As an example, Harrison proposed the co-production of F-T fuel, electricity, and fertilizer from a single gasification plant in a joint venture involving coal, power, and chemical companies. Such so-called polygeneration plants may offer the type of commercial success that the defense department seeks to ensure long term supply of domestic fuel.

"Most people don't know that the U.S. imports more than 50 percent of its fertilizer since fertilizer is made from natural gas and natural gas is less expensive in places like Russia, China, and Trinidad," he said. "So now biodiesel, ethanol, and food supplies also hinge on imports, making us more vulnerable," he said.

Coupling a polygeneration venture with the proper state incentives would help catalyze a commercial industry, Harrison said.

"For example, states like Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Ohio have rules that say as long as a plant makes 50 megawatts of electricity then the plant is designated a power plant and comes under the rules for permitting power plants, even if the plant produces other products. This streamlines the siting and permitting process," he said.

Other incentives Harrison offered included direct investment by a state, federal and state tax credits, loan guarantees, and long term contracts for purchases of a polygen facility's output, such as electricity.

Ohio, Illinois, and Pennsylvania also are investing in research, Harrison said.

"We have been talking with Bill and the defense department for about a year now," said Bajura about WVU's research efforts. Bajura hopes to bring Harrison back to West Virginia to meet with groups like the Chemical Alliance Zone.

"With West Virginia's coal reserves equaling about 70 billion barrels of oil, perhaps West Virginia could be the new Kuwait," said Harrison.


WVU Researchers Seek Hydrogen Future Return to top

2 August 2005: Roanoke, W.Va. - While our nation's leaders may envision non-polluting hydrogen as the fuel of the future, researchers like West Virginia University's Dady Dadyburjor and Edwin Kugler will make that vision real.

Chemical engineering professors Dadyburjor and Kugler are directing hydrogen studies through the Consortium for Fossil Fuel Science, a five-university group that includes WVU, the University of Kentucky, the University of Utah, Auburn University, and the University of Pittsburgh. WVU's efforts are coordinated through the WVU National Research Center for Coal and Energy.

While hydrogen is perhaps the most abundant element in the universe, hydrogen does not exist in its pure state on earth. It must be derived from some source. The CFFS is seeking routes for hydrogen from abundant domestic resources such as coal and coal-bed natural gas.

Today, most hydrogen is derived from methane, the prime component in natural gas, through a process involving steam. Dadyburjor, Kugler and their team of students and post-doctoral researchers have been focusing their efforts on energy from coal, including deriving hydrogen using methane and carbon dioxide.

The process, known as dry reforming of methane or DRM, uses lower pressure than steam reforming, potentially making it less expensive if the right catalyst can be designed.

"Catalysts are materials that increase the rate of chemical reactions without themselves being reacted," Dadyburjor explained. "Catalysts are critical for all chemical processes, from the manufacture of plastics to the conversion of harmful air pollutants in the catalytic converters in our automobiles," he said.

Today, nickel catalysts are the commercial choice. While they are inexpensive, nickel catalysts are prone to coking which causes them to lose their reactivity quickly. Nobel metal catalysts such as platinum stay reactive but are very expensive. Metal carbide catalysts are moderately resistant to coking and are moderately active. Dadyburjor and Kugler hypothesized that adding a second metal would improve the performance of carbide catalysts.

They were right—the researchers developed a tungsten-cobalt carbide catalyst that outperforms current commercial nickel-based catalysts. Their catalyst is long-lasting and can be recovered and reused.

"We have had the tungsten-cobalt carbide catalysts operate for about 200 hours in the reactor," said Dadyburjor. "This is a tremendous amount of time for an academic lab. In fact, the only reason that we had to turn off the process was that the student needed to graduate," he said.

The team's results were presented at the CFFS annual technical meeting at Stonewall Resort in Roanoke, W.Va., August 1-3. Gerald Huffman, CFFS director, called Dadyburjor and Kugler's results, "Impressive."

The researchers suggest that a DRM facility is particularly relevant for stranded natural gas, that gas which does not have access to a transmission line or where a transmission line is already at capacity.

"For example," said Dadyburjor, "a DRM facility could be located above an unmineable coal seam. Some amount of natural gas is present in all coal," he said.

The catalytic conversion of methane with carbon dioxide in a DRM facility would produce not only hydrogen, but also carbon monoxide. The carbon monoxide could be reacted with water to produce more carbon dioxide and more hydrogen.

Some of the newly produced carbon dioxide could be fed back into the DRM process. The remaining carbon dioxide could be pumped into the coal seam to enhance the production of more coal-bed methane, while capturing and storing the carbon dioxide in the geologic formation, Dadyburjor suggested.

In fact, carbon dioxide has long been used by the oil and gas industry to increase the amount of oil and gas extracted from wells.

"Another possibility is to convert some of the hydrogen and carbon monoxide, also known as syngas, into liquid fuels to replace petroleum imports," added Kugler. "Until there is a significant market for hydrogen for transportation, it makes sense to convert the hydrogen into liquid fuels that can be used today," he said, adding that such liquid fuels burn more cleanly than petroleum-based fuels.

Kugler added a third option, using the syngas in a solid oxide fuel cells to produce electricity. "Imagine, a coal company with reserves far from the power grid," said Kugler. "The company could erect a DRM facility, produce hydrogen and carbon monoxide, and then feed the fuels into a solid oxide fuel cell to make electricity for the mine, all without having to connect to the grid."

Such imaginings backed by research offer hope of bringing the hydrogen economy ever nearer.


WVU Energy Program Best in the Nation Return to top

1 August 2005: Morgantown, W.Va. - A WVU center for industrial energy conservation was recently recognized as "Center of the Year" by the U.S. Department of Energy for helping small and medium-sized manufacturers find ways to cut their energy bills. The WVU Industrial Assessment Center, or IAC, ranked first among 26 such centers nationwide.

1

IMSE graduate student Brett Crowder observes his WVU professors B. Gopalakrishnan and Ralph Plummer use an infrared measurement device to take temperature readings in the boiler room at Woody Forest Products company.

2

Industrial Assessment Center assistant director B. Gopalakrishnan (left) and graduate student Deepak Gupta discuss the data as director Ralph Plummer (far right) speaks with one of the maintenance employees in the boiler room at Woody Forest Products company during a free energy assessment offered by the WVU Industrial Energy Assessment Center.

3

The WVU Industrial Assessment Center in the Department of Industrial and Management Systems Engineering was named "Center of the Year" by the U.S. Department of Energy. Center members include (l to r): graduate students Raviraj Chavan and Subodh Chaudhari, IMSE Professor Wafik Iskander, Professor and IAC Director Ralph Plummer, graduate student Deepak Gupta, IMSE Professor and incoming IAC Director B. Gopalakrishnan, and graduate student Bret Crowder

Sandy Glatt, a senior energy project officer for the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Industrial Technologies presented the award to IAC Director Ralph Plummer at the annual IAC Directors meeting, July 19, in West Point, New York. The WVU center has finished in the top five ever since the Energy department began ranking the centers about six years ago, Plummer said.

The IAC, based in the Department of Industrial and Management Systems Engineering (IMSE) in the College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, serves manufacturers throughout West Virginia and in bordering portions of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Maryland. The WVU program receives more than $200,000 annually from the U.S. Department of Energy to offer energy assessments free of charge to 25 qualifying small and medium-sized manufacturing facilities annually.

To qualify for the free service, a manufacturer must be within Standard Industrial Codes (SIC) 20-39, generally be located within 150 miles of the IAC, have gross annual sales below $100 million, have fewer than 500 employees at the plant site, have annual energy bills more between $100,000 and $2.5 million, and have no professional in-house staff to perform the assessment.

A team of IMSE students and the director or assistant director travels to the manufacturer's location to spend an entire day performing the energy assessment that includes intensive energy analysis and diagnostics leading to affordable ideas for cutting energy use and saving money.

According to J.D. Poling, plant manager of Woody Forest Products located in Buckhannon, WV, the recommendations by the WVU IAC for Woody Forest Products have had a significant impact on reducing his company's natural gas energy costs. After spending one day at the Woody Forest Products facility, the IAC team developed nine specific recommendations for saving energy. The facility has implemented seven of those ideas which has cut the company's energy costs by ten percent.

Since the IAC's inception in 1992, Plummer said the program has visited 330 companies and identified more than $17 million in potential energy savings. "That's quite a payback of taxpayer dollars, about 6 to 1," he said, noting that the IAC has received approximately $2.8 million in government funding over the years.

The program has been as good for Plummer's students as for manufacturers. "Students are getting good jobs as a result of their work with the IAC," he said. They are working at places such as Siemens Building Technologies, Vermont Energy Investment Corp., General Motors, Ford, 3M and others.

Besides playing a critical role in launching students' careers, the IAC also played a critical role in launching WVU's popular Industries of the Future—West Virginia program, Plummer said. The IOF-WV idea was conceived by Plummer, Gopalakrishnan, Carl Irwin, IOF-WV co-director, and Denise Swink, a former official at DOE's Office of Industrial Technologies, while on an IAC visit to a nearby manufacturer.

The IOF-WV program brings together researchers at WVU and national laboratories with manufacturers of all sizes to conduct research on improved processes to conserve energy and minimize waste which saves money and helps West Virginia manufacturers compete in global markets. The program is based in the National Research Center for Coal and Energy at WVU.

"The 'Center of the Year' award could not have come at a better time," said Plummer, professor and former chairman of the IMSE department. "After 37 years at WVU, I will be retiring this year. It's nice to know that we're at the top of our game," he said.

B. "Gopala" Gopalakrishnan will be assuming leadership of the center beginning August 16, 2005. Gopalakrishnan has been the IAC's assistant director since the program started 13 years ago. "I am proud to become the new director and am committed to ensuring that this program will continue to provide valuable industrial energy conservation research, student education and training, and economic development to the region," said Gopalakrishnan.

To learn more about the WVU IAC, visit http://www2.cemr.wvu.edu/~wwwiac/.


Energy secretary visits WVU
WVU researchers win coal project Return to top

7 July 2005: Morgantown, W.Va. - Three West Virginia University faculty have won a $200,000, three-year research award from the U.S. Department of Energy University Coal Research Program to study high-temperature materials that could allow cleaner, more efficient electricity production from coal.

This and other awards in the highly competitive coal research program were announced today by U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman at the WVU National Research Center for Coal and Energy.

Secretary of Energy Bodman meeting with the Press

The WVU study, "Ductility Enhancement of Molybdenum Phase by Nano-sized Oxide Dispersion," will be conducted by Bruce Kang, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering; Mani Manivannan, research assistant professor of physics; and Bernard Cooper, professor emeritus of physics.

Increasing the temperature at which coal is burned is one way to increase the amount of electricity that can be generated per ton of coal and at the same time decrease air emissions.

Such high-temperature, clean-coal technology will require power plant turbines made of advanced materials such as alloys of molybdenum-based alloys.

These alloys resist melting and do not corrode at high temperatures, but are hard to shape and prone to crack at normal-room temperatures.

To address these problems, scientists have tried dispersing micro-sized ceramics throughout the metal alloy - a procedure that offers some improvement.

Kang, Manivannan and Cooper plan to test even smaller particles at the nanoscale - 100 times smaller than current-sized particles - to enhance the ductility of molybdenum at room temperature so the material can be shaped without fracturing.

The researchers will develop computer models to gain insight into exactly how to make this new material, then use the computer results to manufacture the specialty metal in the lab.

WVU and the NRCCE will be providing more than $78,000 in additional funding to support the research.

CONTACT:  Bruce Kang, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering 293-3111 ext. 2316


Water research institute at WVU seeks donors for state water gaging network Return to top

May 2005: Morgantown , W.Va. - The West Virginia Water Research Institute (WVWRI) at West Virginia University announced that it is accepting donations on behalf of the newly created West Virginia Water Gaging Council to maintain and improve the state's water gaging network.

"Without water gages, we lose our ability to predict water events such as floods and droughts," explained Paul Ziemkiewicz, WVWRI director and member of the council.

"In 2003, funding cuts threatened the operation of 18 gages that were essential for monitoring water," said Ziemkiewicz.

"The gages are too important, so a coalition has formed to appeal to private individuals and organizations for donations to enhance funding for the network," said Ziemkiewicz.

In addition to fundraising, the West Virginia Water Gaging Council provides a forum for conversation and collaboration among groups that are interested in water issues in the state.

Council members include the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, W.Va. Department of Environmental Protection, W.Va. Water Research Institute, W.Va. Division of Natural Resources, W.Va. Conservation Agency, W.Va. Office of Emergency Services, W.Va. Department of Transportation, W.Va. Rivers Coalition, Michael Baker Corporation, and Canaan Valley Institute.

Liz Garland, Executive Director of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition, is the current council chairperson. Donation information and background about the Water Gaging Council is available on the Web at wvwri.nrcce.wvu.edu/programs/wvwgc/.


NRCCE releases new website Return to top

NRCCE announced the release of its new website, http://www.nrcce.wvu.edu. The new site serves as a portal directing viewers to its many energy and environmental programs and to information about its facilities.

New features include a list of topics that viewers may use to find the programs of interest to them. And faculty and staff who use the NRCCE's conference facility will appreciate the new online NRCCE conference services calendar.

The calendar may be consulted to determine room availability or to double-check the room location for a meeting or event by clicking on the "Events" or "Conference Facilities" links from the home page. To see room availability, select from the daily, weekly, or monthly "list" items in the "display format" pull-down menu.

Also a "Working with NRCCE" link from the home page explains how faculty, staff, vendors, and prospective employees may work with NRCCE.


WVU team wins award for promoting alternative fuel vehicles Return to top

21 April 2005: Morgantown, W.Va. - Frustrated by gasoline prices but feel like you don't have any choices? Recognition of that frustration drove a team of experts at West Virginia University to tell people that options do exist. Now that team is being recognized for its efforts to promote the nation's largest ever event focusing on advanced technology and alternative fuel vehicles — 2004 National AFV Day Odyssey.

The brainchild of Al Ebron, the executive director of the National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium headquartered at WVU, the one-day public awareness event reached more than 24,000 people across the nation coupled with a media campaign that reached an estimated 24 million individuals as documented by Burrelle Clipping Service, VMS monitoring service, site media reports, and others. The team that developed the media relations will be honored next month with two awards from the Association for Communication Excellence, a gold award in the media relations class and a second gold award as "best of the best" for the broader integrated communications program category.

The media team was headed by Meg Baughman, lead for integrated marketing and creative services for WVU Extension Service, and included Trina Wafle, associate director at the WVU National Research Center for Coal and Energy, Wes Nugent, web master for the WVU Extension Service, and Kathleen Kennedy and Erich Lipphardt both formerly of the NAFTC.

AFV Day Odyssey featured not only natural gas vehicles and hybrid electrics such as the Toyota Prius and Honda Insight that are available today, but also prototype hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles for tomorrow. Hundreds of advanced technology and alternative fuel vehicles were on display in the 54 cities in 34 states nationwide where Odyssey events were conducted.

An overwhelming majority of those who attended an event said they would consider test-driving these new vehicles. Local event coordinators agreed that Odyssey created greater awareness that consumers have choices beyond traditional gasoline vehicles.

Patchen elected to national petroleum board Return to top

5 April 2005: Morgantown, W.Va. - Douglas G. Patchen has been elected to the national board of directors for the Petroleum Technology Transfer Council. Dr. Patchen is chief geologist with the West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey and director of the PTTC Appalachian Region Resource Center and Appalachian Oil and Natural Gas Research Consortium at West Virginia University's National Research Center for Coal and Energy.

The PTTC is a not-for-profit national organization that educates independent oil and gas producers about new and proven technology for enhancing oil and gas recovery in the U.S.

Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy with additional funding from participating universities, the PTTC operates 10 regional resource centers at universities in cooperation with state geological surveys. The Appalachian center has conducted more than 90 technology workshops during the last decade for industries interested in t


he seven-state region encompassing New York to Tennessee.


WVU's Ziemkiewicz honored for conservation efforts Return to top

7 March 2005: Morgantown, W.Va. - Paul F. Ziemkiewicz, director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute at West Virginia University's National Research Center for Coal and Energy, was awarded the Environmental Conservation Distinguished Service Award of the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical and Petroleum Engineers in recognition of his outstanding service, foresight and innovation in mine reclamation and water quality improvement at the annual meeting of the Society for Mining, Metallurgy and Exploration. The award ceremony was held last week in Salt Lake City, Utah at the group's annual meeting.

Ziemkiewicz currently serves on state and federal policy advisory committees focusing on reclamation and acid mine drainage. He is the author of Acid Mine Drainage Control & Treatment, a handbook used by engineers worldwide for water remediation.

Under Ziemkiewicz's direction, the West Virginia Water Research Institute has conducted projects at Big Bear Lake and on Sovern Run, the North Fork of Greens Run, the Middle Fork of Greens Run, the McCarty highwall, the Pase Property, Connors Run, and the Sherman Helms mine portal, all in the Cheat River watershed. The researchers are studying a variety of inexpensive technologies ranging from open limestone stream channels to nearly airtight underground limestone drains to steel slag-lined ponds.

The WVWRI's strategy is to remove over half of the acidity at each treatment site so that the net effect is neutral water in the target stream. "The first ton of acidity removed is always the cheapest," said Ziemkiewicz. "Trying to achieve drinking water levels at each mine discharge would mean we spend all of our money on one or two sites and put really good water into really bad streams. Rather, we're trying to improve the stream by gradually reducing the total amount of pollutant in headwater locations," said Ziemkiewicz.

The approach has worked very well allowing a fishery to be reestablished in one Cheat River tributary, the Big Sandy Creek, which had been dead for decades.


Fewer acid-polluted streams on list does not surprise WVU experts Return to top

2 February 2005: Morgantown, W.Va. -The recent news that there are fewer waterways on the state's latest list of streams and rivers polluted by acid mine drainage came as no surprise to Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute (WVWRI) at the West Virginia University National Research Center for Coal and Energy.

The number of acid mine drainage-polluted waterways on the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection's "303(d)" list dropped from 488 in 1998 to 80 in 2005. Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act requires that streams or segments of streams that are impaired be identified.

"As DEP identifies a stream segment's total maximum daily load (TMDL), or the amount of pollutant that a stream can accept, the agency begins the process of improving it by controlling new sources of pollution while focusing cleanup efforts," explained Ziemkiewicz.

"Once there is a plan for improvement, then the stream is removed from the 303(d) list. It does not necessarily mean that the stream is healthy, but it does mean that we have a measure of the problem and planners can develop strategies for dealing with it. If you can't measure it, you can't manage it," he said.

West Virginia University Graduate Research Assistant Amie Greiner

West Virginia University Graduate Research Assistant Amie Greiner samples water at Big Sandy Creek, a tributary of the Cheat River in Preston County, W.Va. The moss-covered rocks are evidence that the once-dead stream has come back to life thanks to acid mine drainage treatment technologies developed by WVU's West Virginia Water Research Institute and implemented by the Friends of the Cheat, the West Virginia Division of Environmental Protection, the U.S. Office of Surface Mining, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. They have installed and monitored a half-dozen different technologies at critical sites in the watershed that now sustains a fishery.

For the past decade, the WVWRI has been working with the state DEP and others to identify, measure, and remediate acid-laden streams.

Ziemkiewicz points to the WVWRI's work in the Cheat River watershed in Preston County, W.Va. "Instead of working on single points of contamination at individual mine sites around the state, we chose to work with the River of Promise group and at their direction, focus all our efforts on one watershed at a time," said Ziemkiewicz. River of Promise is a pact between Friends of the Cheat Watershed Association, the WVWRI, and state and federal agencies to clean up the Cheat River watershed.

The group has projects at Big Bear Lake and on Sovern Run, the North Fork of Greens Run, the Middle Fork of Greens Run, the McCarty highwall, the Pase Property, Connors Run, and the Sherman Helms mine portal. The researchers are studying a variety of inexpensive technologies ranging from open limestone stream channels to nearly airtight underground limestone drains to steel slag-lined ponds. Recent measurements show that all but one are working well.

The amount of acidity in Sovern Run is down by more than 17 percent. The North Fork of Greens Run is 70 percent less acidic. The McCarty Highwall actually produces alkaline water now. The Pase Property has seen an 84 percent drop in acid load and the Sherman Helms portal has seen an equally impressive 83 percent drop in acidity. The Connors Run project raised the pH from 2.7 to 5.5. By comparison, the pH of drinking water is 6.0 to 8.0.

The WVWRI's strategy is to remove over half of the acidity at each treatment site so that the net effect is neutral water in the target stream. "The first ton of acidity removed is always the cheapest," said Ziemkiewicz. "Trying to achieve drinking water levels at each mine discharge would mean we spend all of our money on one or two sites and put really good water into really bad streams. Rather, we're trying to improve the stream by gradually reducing the total amount of pollutant in headwater locations," said Ziemkiewicz.

The approach has worked very well. For example, a fishery has been reestablished in one Cheat River tributary, the Big Sandy Creek, which had been dead for decades.

The cost has been fairly modest, too. The projects in the Big Sandy watershed cost less than $400,000. Yet a 1980 study by the US EPA put a price of $4.0 million on cleaning up one single tributary, Sovern Run, alone. The WVWRI technologies have been the difference.

Only one site, the Middle Fork of Greens Run, has not worked. "That's partly because we took our initial stream measurements during a drought," explained project manager Brady Gutta. "So the project ended up being under-designed. But we're redesigning it now," he said.

For the past fours years, Ziemkiewicz and Gutta have been assisted by safety and environmental management graduate student Amie Greiner, who joined the institute as a sophomore. The Parkersburg, W.Va., native plans to graduate in December, 2005 and then work in environmental compliance and regulation for the government.

Building on the success with the Cheat watershed, the researchers are turning their attention to Lower Paint Creek in Kanawha County, W. Va. "We've just started looking at this region and hope to have some projects underway this summer," said Ziemkiewicz.

Ziemkiewicz said the real key to success has been the River of Promise partnership. Funding comes from the watershed association's cooperative agreements with the federal Office of Surface Mining and from the WVWRI's contracts with the West Virginia Department of Environmental who receives funding from the U.S. EPA.

"Dr. Ziemkiewicz and the Water Research Institute provide the technical expertise that we rely on to design projects that will give us good results," said Keith Pitzer, executive director of Friends of the Cheat.

"We hope to duplicate our success with the Lower Paint Creek Watershed Association and other groups around the State," said Ziemkiewicz.


National Environmental Services Center Helps Create National Partnership Return to top

WVU Center Joins EPA to Address Septic System Challenges

14 January 2005: Morgantown, W.Va. - There are 25 million septic systems in the U.S. serving more than 70 million people. And, as many as one-third of all new housing developments in the country will be built with onsite waste disposal systems. Unless they are designed, constructed, and managed correctly, these wastewater treatment systems will be destined to join a growing number of septic system failures, currently estimated at between 10 and 50 percent.

To address this problem, the National Environmental Services Center (NESC) at West Virginia University and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have formed a partnership with seven other national organizations to improve septic systems across the country. In doing so, the participants will combine forces to reduce pollution in the nation's waterways and improve local community public and environmental health.

"Septic system failure is a serious concern in the United States," says Rick Phalunas, NESC interim executive director. "It can negatively affect public health, the condition of our environment, property values, and the potential for community and economic development. When properly built and managed, though, failure rates drop to a level that permits repair and replacement before serious effects result.

"The challenge before us is daunting and beyond the capacity of any single organization," Phalunas notes. "But by working in unison on this issue, this wide-ranging, national partnership can make the task of managing all these systems less formidable."

"This agreement will help solidify our national partnership to protect drinking water supplies and local water quality through promoting change in the way these wastewater systems are managed," says Ben Grumbles, EPA assistant administrator for water. "I am pleased to formally recognize the contributions these partners make to achieve results in protecting public health and improving water quality."

In addition to NESC and EPA, the other partners include: the National Association of Towns and Townships, the National Association of Wastewater Transporters, the National Environmental Health Association, the National Onsite Wastewater Recycling Association, the Rural Community Assistance Partnership, the Water Environment Federation, and the Consortium of Institutes for Decentralized Wastewater Treatment.

NESC's specific role in the partnership is to serve as a national resource and information clearinghouse; to help communities establish managed systems; to provide technical assistance; to lead training sessions; and to disseminate knowledge through publications.

Based at West Virginia University, NESC is a national leader in the areas of drinking water, wastewater, environmental training, solid waste, infrastructure security, and utility management in small and rural communities. NESC's engineers and technical experts have been at the forefront of septic system technologies for more than 25 years. To learn more about NESC, call (800) 624-8301 or visit www.nesc.wvu.edu.