Coal slurry solids/coal fluidized bed combustion by-product mixtures as plant growth media

Robert G. Darmody, William P. Green, Gary B. Dreher

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle


Fine-textured, pyritic waste produced by coal cleaning is stored in slurry settling ponds that eventually require reclamation. Conventionally, reclamation involves covering the dewatered coal slurry solids (CSS) with 1.3 m of soil to allow plant growth and prevent acid generation by pyrite oxidation. This study was conducted to determine the feasibility of a less costly reclamation approach that would eliminate the soil cover and allow direct seeding of plants into amended CSS materials. Potential acidity of the CSS would be neutralized by additions of fluidized-bed combustion by-product (FBCB), an alkaline by-product of coal combustion. The experiment involved two sources of CSS and FBCB materials from Illinois. Birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus L.), tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.), and sweet clover (Melilotus officinalis (L.) Lam.) were seeded in the greenhouse into pots containing mixtures of the materials. CSS-1 had a high CaCO3:FeS2 ratio and needed no FBCB added to compensate for its potential acidity. CSS-2 was mixed with the FBCB materials to neutralize potential acidity (labeled Mix A and B). Initial pH was 5.6, 8.8, and 9.2 for the CSS-1, Mix A, and Mix B materials, respectively. At the end of the 70-day experiment, pH was 5.9 for all the mixtures. Tall fescue and sweet clover grew well in all the treatments, but birdsfoot trefoil had poor emergence and survival. Elevated tissue levels of B, Cd, and Se were found in some plants. Salinity, low moisture holding capacity, and potentially phytotoxic B may limit the efficacy of this reclamation method.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Number of pages5
Specialist publicationInternational Journal of Surface Mining, Reclamation and Environment
StatePublished - 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Soil Science
  • Geology
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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