Acid Mine Drainage leeches from abandoned underground and surface coal mines, ruining water quality for life and communities that otherwise could and should rely on clean water resources.


The pH Scale.jpg

Water quality is measured on a pH Scale; water with a pH of 7 is considered pure. When Acid Mine Drainage enters waterways, the pH is lowered, impairing aquatic life and impacting opportunities in communities.

Acid Mine Drainage Experts

Dr. Natalie Kruse is an Associate Professor at the Voinovich School at Ohio University.  Her work on watr


Ben McCament works with the Abandoned Mine Lands Program through the Division of Resources Management within the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.  We discuss large-scale remediation and long-term impacts if funding for remediation falls off.  

Michelle Shively is the Sunday Creek Watershed Coordinator for Rural Action in Trimble, Ohio.  Rural Action is a regional nonprofit who strives to build a more just economy in Southeast Ohio around environmental, social, and economic sustainability.

Sunday Creek was one of the most heavily-impacted waterways from acid mine drainage in Southeast Ohio.  We visit several sites to see both working, current solutions and past, unfixed damage first-hand.

Nate Schlater is the Monday Creek Watershed Coordinator with Rural Action in New Straitsville, Ohio.

We discuss pre- and post-regulation mining, its impacts, and modern remediation work in the Monday Creek Watershed.  

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Fools Gold, Black Diamonds, and Acid Mine Drainage

Pre-regulation coal extraction left Southeast Ohio's landscape pockmarked with hollowed-out abandoned mines, caverns, and piles of coal.  In Athens County, polluted water pours into, over, and from these abandonments into runs and creeks, interacting with groundwater used for drinking and other municipal uses.


Pyrite (Fool's Gold) remains after coal (Black Diamonds) is mined.  When water and air react with pyrite, sulfuric acid and dissolved iron - acid mine drainage - is formed.  The AMD finds its way out of old mines as water always finds a way to keep flowing downstream.

"More Dead Than a Bag of Hammers"


At pH7, aquatic life thrives.  Stretches of waterways in Southeast Ohio affected by AMD were measured at a pH between 2 and 4 - similar to vinegar and Coca-Cola - before remediation efforts began in the 90's.  These creeks were once described as being "More dead than a bag of hammers."

Throughout pH7, we learn how three Athens County, Ohio, stream systems were severely impacted from acid mine drainage, spilling from early 20th-century abandoned mine sites:  Sunday Creek, Monday Creek, and Raccoon Creek.  Prior to the 1970's there were no regulations requiring water leaving mines to be treated. 


In 1972, Ohio passed a law ___ and in 1977 Congress passed the ___.  Along with these laws, a severance tax was created, requiring that coal companies pay into a fund, which is distributed for remediation of AMD-polluted streams from pre-regulation disturbances.

Neighboring states like West Virginia and Pennsylvania have many more miles of polluted rivers overall than flow from Ohio into the river drainage by the state's name.  That often leaves Eastern and Southeast Ohio a forgotten region when the national stage turns its attention to water quality in Appalachia.  The film pH7 will look at water quality, acid mine drainage, and remediation practices and funding from a Southeast Ohio and Athens County lens.