Kempton Refuse and AMD
The Kempton Refuse and AMD AML Project is located near the historic coal mining communities
of Kempton, Maryland and Thomas, West Virginia. This site is situated just outside of Kempton
and approximately four miles north of the town of Thomas, off U.S. Route 219. Proximity to state
and national recreational and historic areas, as well as a continental watershed divide, made this
project a prime candidate for addressing health, safety, and environmental reclamation. The project
is located near the gateway to the Potomac Highlands Region of West Virginia. Nearby recreation
areas include Blackwater Falls State Park, Canaan Valley Resort State Park, Dolly Sods Wilderness
Area, and the Monongahela National Forest. The Fairfax Stone, less than one mile to the southeast,
is a surveyor’s marker and boundary stone. It marks the headspring of the North Branch Potomac
River, which delineates the state boundary between Maryland and West Virginia as it meanders its
way eastward, eventually flowing into the Potomac River and through the capital of the United
States, Washington, D.C. The project area drains into the headwaters of this river.
Project Start: August 13, 2007
Project Complete: October 31, 2009
Construction Cost: $2,357,159, including $439,292 in Appalachian Clean Streams Initiative funding
Contractor: Cowgirl Up Inc.
Three Fork Creek Watershed Restoration Project
Three Fork Creek is situated in West Virginia’s Preston and Taylor counties, with a drainage area of 103 square
miles (Map 1). The headwaters are predominantly located in Preston County, with minor contributing tributaries
originating in Monongalia and Taylor counties at elevations exceeding 2,200 feet. The mainstem is located in both
Preston (7.5 miles) and Taylor (11 miles) counties, formed by the confluence of Birds Creek, Squires Creek, and
Fields Creek in western Preston County. The stream then flows southwest before emptying into the Tygart Valley
River (in the Monongahela River basin) in the city of Grafton, Taylor County, at an elevation of 1,000 feet. The
chief tributaries of Three Fork Creek are Birds Creek (consisting of the North and South Fork), Fields Creek, Raccoon Creek, Squires Creek, and Laurel Run.
With the exception of Laurel Run and Fields Creek, acid mine drainage (AMD) generated from extensive
pre-SMCRA underground mining had degraded the chief tributaries of Three Fork Creek. As a result, the entire
length of the Three Fork Creek mainstem was mostly devoid of aquatic life. The effects of AMD impairment
extended from Three Fork Creek downstream into the Tygart Valley River. In 2004 the West Virginia Division
of Natural Resources (WVDNR) determined that Three Fork Creek was the second highest contributor of AMD
in the Monongahela River basin. When localized rain storms occurred in the Three Fork Creek watershed during
low flow conditions, acid slugs were pushed downstream, sometimes causing fish kills in the Tygart Valley River.
High concentrations of acid and iron carried by Three Fork Creek from abandoned coal mines created a plume in
the river through the town of Grafton.
Three Fork Creek flows into the Tygart Valley River at Grafton, approximately 2.25 miles downstream of
Tygart Lake, a 1,750-acre reservoir managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACOE). Both the lake and
the lake tailwaters are used extensively for boating and fishing. Additional recreational facilities in the vicinity
of Tygart Lake include Tygart Lake State Park and Grafton City Park (located immediately below Tygart Lake
Dam and includes a boat launch). Each attraction draws recreational users to the vicinity, providing a boost to the
economy of Grafton, as well as providing high visibility of the confluence of Three Fork Creek with the Tygart
Valley River to those passing by. WVDNR regularly stocks trout in the tailwater section, and stocks various other
fish species in the lake and tailwater section.
In addition to the information detailed below, the high visibility, impact to aquatic life, recreation, and local economy, and increased loadings for water treatment facilities downstream made Three Fork Creek a prime candidate for
restoration by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, Office of Abandoned Mine Lands (AML).
Project Start: July 19, 2010
Project Complete: April 15, 2011
Construction Cost: $750,491.15
Contractor: Breakaway, Inc.
Carswell Eroding Refuse
The Carswell Eroding Refuse project is located along Laurel Branch in the small coal mining
community of Carswell Hollow, just north of the Town of Kimball, in West Virginia’s most
southerly county of McDowell. This neighborhood is situated about 4 miles east of the City of
Welch, the county seat, along US Route 52, and 12 miles north of Tazewell County, Virginia.
The project area drains into Elkhorn Creek, which eventually flows into the Tug Fork River as it
meanders its way westward to create the state boundary between Kentucky and West Virginia.
Carswell, like so many other southern West Virginia communities, is inexorably linked to coal
mining activities as they progressed throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. During
these periods, many of the mining operators constructed company homes adjacent to or even on
top of coal refuse areas due to the severe shortage of flat land in the steep hollows, so often
found in this part of West Virginia. Gradually, however, problems began to develop that
ultimately threatened both properties and lives.
One such problem arose in the Carswell and Kimball communities after repeated flooding events
in July 2000 and May 2002. During these events, high stream flows began eroding the toe of a
1940’s coal refuse embankment near the mouth of Laurel Branch in Carswell Hollow. As the
flooding progressed, two sections of the cut-stone retaining wall collapsed, causing some of the
material to spill into the creek channel, thereby impeding its flow. Immediately following the
flooding, the West Virginia Division of Highways removed numerous pieces of collapsed cutstone
and enough of the refuse material that had fallen into the creek channel, as well as
additional debris that had washed downstream, to temporarily restore its flow.
Coupled with the looming potential for catastrophic property damage along Laurel Branch,
located nearby was another abandoned mine lands site, Site #2, which consisted of a 20-acre
refuse pile. This pile had steep slopes and the easily erodable material was very unstable.
Numerous homes as well as a public road located at the pile’s toe were in danger of being
flooded or destroyed by a landslide, should one develop. Local residents and abandoned mine
lands officials alike were concerned that this site could also cause serious damage to downslope
properties should these issues go unresolved.
Project Start: January 16, 2006
Project Complete: May 15, 2007
Construction Cost: $2,542,182
Contractor: Green Mountain Company
Pendelton Creek Strip
The Pendleton Creek Strip AML project
involved perennial surface drainage
entering abandoned underground mine
workings through vertical openings in
the streambed, where the flows reversed
direction and amplified an existing large
drainage in the city of Thomas, West Virginia. In
addition, there were 200 linear feet of highwall
and three dangerous impoundments that
The Pendleton Creek Strip project utilized
impervious sealing of the stream capture areas
and construction of restored and relocated
stream channels to convey the surface drainage
along its original pre-mining path.
Project Start: July 27, 2010
Project Complete: June 9, 2011
Construction Cost: $763,450
Contractor: Eastern Arrow Corp