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Knoxville Special Sessions

Knoxville 2024 Special Sessions

Session Contact: Brian Dailey, OSMRE, bdailey@osmre.gov

Submission of abstracts to focus around the following themes:

  • Current mine and bat management strategies;
  • Best practices for mine closures (e.g., gate types/styles, appropriate use of culverts, grates/vents to maintain airflow, etc.);
  • Forest reclamation and bats;
  • Regulations related to species protection of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) or the Endangered Species Act (ESA);
  • Bat surveys and technology;
  • Habitat and hibernaculum concerns for different times of the year / seasonal protocols; and
  • Habitat assessment and landscape-scale management for bats.

Session Contact: Eric E. Cavazza, P.E., Tetra Tech, Inc.

Submission of abstracts to focus on the following themes:

  • State and Tribal Plans for Obligating this Additional AML Funding;
  • Program Implementation Practices or Issues;
  • STREAM Act and Watershed Restoration;
  • Partnerships, Collaboration, and Public Engagement
  • BIL, AMLER, and Traditional AML Funded Project Case Studies;
  • AMLER Project Success Stories – Revitalizing Coal Country.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) (Pub. L. No. 117-58), also known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, was enacted on November 15, 2021. The BIL authorized and appropriated $11.293 billion for deposit into the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund administered by the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement (OSMRE). Of the $11.293 billion appropriated, OSMRE will distribute approximately $10.873 billion in BIL Abandoned Mine Land (AML) grants to eligible States and Tribes on an equal annual basis—approximately $725 million a year—over a 15-year period. BIL AML funds expands the AML Reclamation Program to meet the priorities described in the BIL and the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 (SMCRA), as amended, which include addressing coal AML related problems described in sections 403(a), 403(b), and 410 of SMCRA and providing employment for current and former employees of the coal industry.In addition to BIL AML funding, since 1978 eligible states and tribes receive AML funding as authorized by Title IV of SMCRA. Title IV of SMCRA created the AML Fund, which is funded primarily by a reclamation fee (also known as the AML fee) assessed on each ton of coal produced in the United States and which, among other things, provides funding for the reclamation of coal mining sites abandoned or left in an inadequate reclamation status as of August 3, 1977. The BIL extended the authority for OSMRE to collect and distribute this funding through 2034 while also reducing the fees by twenty percent (20%).

Also, since federal fiscal year FY 2016, the US Congress has appropriated US Treasury Funding each year to selected states and Indian tribes to undertake AML reclamation projects that include or facilitate economic revitalization or that provide other community benefits. This program, known as the Abandoned Mine Land Economic Revitalization Program or “AMLER” provides $90-$135 million per year to the six Appalachian States (AL, KY, OH, PA, VA, & WV) with the largest AML inventories and to the three western Tribes (Crow, Hopi, & Navajo Nation) with coal AML problems.

All of these coal AML funding sources are providing nearly one billion dollars ($1,000,000,000) for AML reclamation work annually to twenty-five (25) States and three (3) Tribes. This special session invites presentations that will focus on details and requirements for these various AML funding sources, how State and Tribal AML Programs are utilizing this funding, and some project case studies and success stories.

Session Contact: Stephen McCord and Steve Dent

Submission of abstracts to focus on the following themes:

  • Site investigations recent and ongoing focused on fate and transport data at contaminated sites
  • Site remediation success stories for recent and ongoing mercury contamination.

Mercury-contaminated sites are a continuing challenge to delineate and adequately remediate. Every state within the United States currently has at least one water body-specific or statewide fish consumption advisory due to elevated fish tissue mercury found in their surface waters. Mercury was mined extensively in the United States’ Coast Range from the 1850’s to 1970’s and used in gold mine sites in the Sierra Nevada and elsewhere. In California alone there are thousands of potentially mercury impacted mine sites, with the vast majority of them unaddressed. Even today, mercury ore processing facilities and artisanal gold mining sites globally release a variety of mercury species, each with unique fate and transport dynamics that present challenges to site investigations and remediation.  Legacy industrial sites that used elemental or other forms of mercury are often faced with similarly difficult remediation scenarios.

Mercury Session A: Site Investigation
This session focuses on recent and ongoing site investigations that add to the growing body of knowledge on mercury fate and transport at contaminated sites. Challenges associated with mercury contaminated sites arise from the large variety of chemical species and conditions that manifest from mining and other industrial operations. Gold and silver mills, and many industrial facilities typically received elemental (liquid) mercury as a feed stock to their processes. Mercury mine sites typically processed mercury ore with a resulting variety of sources including left behind waste rock, crushed ore, calcines, and fallout from inefficient mercury vapor collection. These sites are also located in areas of naturally elevated geogenic sources of mercury. Additional mercury in atmosphere deposition on the landscape can be difficult to differentiate. Release of mercury from these contaminated and background sources ultimately impacts downstream water bodies, transported by streams and rivers, and deposited within lakes, reservoirs, and estuaries.

In aquatic ecosystems, ionic mercury can be biochemically transformed into methylmercury, the organic form of the metal that partitions into biotic tissue and biomagnified. The mechanisms that control methylation and bioaccumulation rates are complex and site specific. Many sites that have been remediated continue to have persistent elevated mercury in fish, years after cleanup. There is a clear and present need to develop and implement more comprehensive investigation techniques and strategies to better inform conceptual site models that feed into more successful remedial applications.

Mercury Session B: Site Remediation
This session focuses on recent and ongoing mercury site remediation success stories. Remediation and reclamation of mercury-contaminated sites (including waterbodies) are challenging because of remote site conditions, complex mercury speciation/transformation processes, and multiple routes of mercury transport and exposure. Commensurate with that complexity, remediation projects need to be multi-faceted—addressing site hydrology, soil erosion/stability, leachability, loss/degradation, vegetation, downstream impacts and more.  Stabilization of mercury source areas is often the initial step to remediation of diffuse contaminated media.

Remediation products can be applied to mercury -contaminated soils to effectively reduce leachability below soluble leachate limits, allowing on-site material to be reclassified from a hazardous waste to a non-hazardous waste. Such treatments can allow more economic land disposal options. Treatability studies can be performed on contaminated soils and waste materials to quantify treatability of mercury as well as chemically similar contaminates such as PCBs. Such treatments can lead to reductions in leachate concentrations and cumulative mercury loading.

The 2024 Planning Committee is currently accepting proposals for MORE special technical sessions, workshops, and roundtable discussions. Proposals for special sessions, workshops, and roundtable discussions should be submitted directly to Kenton Sena at kenton.sena@uky.edu.