Amendment of acidic coal refuse with yard trimmings compost and alkaline materials: Effects on leachate quality and plant growth

Richard C. Stehouwer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Establishment of vegetative cover on coal refuse stabilizes the pile surface and reduces off site deposition of acidic sediments and drainage water. Direct revegetation through the use of by-product amendments would eliminate the need for topsoil cover and provide a beneficial use for by-product materials. This 8 month greenhouse study investigated yard trimmings compost, flue gas desulfurization (FGD) by-product, and agricultural limestone (ag-lime) amendments for direct revegetation of hyper-acidic coal refuse and their effects on leachate and plant quality. Pots (30 cm tall × 15 cm diam) of coal refuse were amended with five rates of compost (0 to 200 g kg−1), with and without sufficient agricultural limestone (ag-lime) to raise refuse pH to 7, and planted with orchardgrass (Dactylis glomerata). Compost increased leachate pH from <2 to 4.4, decreased specific conductance from >17 to <5 mmho cm−1 (due to large decreases in Al, Fe, and S), and decreased leachate concentrations of several trace elements. The pH increase from ag-lime greatly reduced leachate Al, Fe, and S and largely masked any effects of compost addition. Because no plant growth occurred with compost only, after 2 months FGD (200 g kg−1) was added to the upper 1/3 depth of compost-amended coal refuse. The FGD increased refuse pH to the range 4.2 (no compost) to 5.7 (200 g kg−1 compost), decreased leachate Al and Fe, increased leachate B, and allowed vigorous growth of orchardgrass. When combined with FGD, compost increased downward movement of Ca and Mg. Although compost addition decreased plant growth at the first harvest due to N immobilization, application of mineral N fertilizer alleviated this problem in subsequent harvests. Compost did not increase orchardgrass growth when combined with ag-lime. With FGD, however, compost increased orchardgrass growth to levels above that for ag-lime and compost, in spite of increased plant tissue B.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)81-92
Number of pages12
JournalCompost Science and Utilization
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1997

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Soil Science


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