News Detail



OSM Hydrologist Receives DOI Environmental Achievement Award


Bureau: Office of Surface Mining


Brent Means, a hydrologist with the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, received a 2013 Interior Environmental Achievement Award for acid mine drainage treatment.

Brent Means receiving the award
Brent Means receives a 2013 Interior Environmental Achievement award.
(From left: Tom Shope, regional director for OSM's Appalachian Region;
Katherine Bartholomew, Office of Environmental Policy and Compliance,
Means, and OSM Director Joe Pizarchik.)

The Environmental Achievement Awards recognize departmental employees and partners who have attained exceptional achievements under Executive Order 13514, “Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance,” and for cleaning up contaminated land. An interdisciplinary panel of reviewers from the department’s bureaus and offices evaluated nominations to recommend Award recipients and honorable mentions.

Close-up of the award
Close-up of the award.

About the Project

Across the Appalachian Region, more than 5,000 miles of once pristine streams and rivers have been killed by acidic water escaping from former coal mine sites. State and federal entities spend millions of dollars from federal grants remediating this water to reduce the acid and remove the unwanted particulates like iron. Utilizing Office of Surface Mining software and his knowledge and expertise, Means has developed an analysis regime that cuts treatment cost in half while boosting the removal of targeted populates and results in a reduction of waste sludge. Recently, at one site, the tailored treatment regimen reduced the chemical usage by 34 percent at a savings of $120,000 annually.

Brent Means and OSM Director Joe Pizarchik
Brent Means and OSM Director Joe Pizarchik.

The traditional, text-book method for treating this acid mine drainage is to evaluate the acidity (or pH) of the water, then to apply a rate of lime based on the acidity. With acidity reduced, many of the unwanted metals, such as iron, drop out of the water and onto the floor of the treatment area. Unfortunately, excess lime often remains in the water and is discharged with the treated water, thus increasing the total dissolved solids. Even when excess lime isn't discharged with the water, the excess lime means additional sludge, increasing the expense of maintaining the treatment plant. Means developed the approach of analyzing the chemistry of the water going into the processing plant, determining the chemical makeup of the water, and tailoring a regimen best suited to removing the specific offending components while leaving beneficial constituents that would have been removed under the traditional methods. The water that is released is actually more beneficial and at a significant cost reduction. At one recent site, the tailored treatment regimen reduced the chemical usage by 34 percent at a savings of $120,000 annually.

Read More

For more information about the 2013 Interior Environmental Achievement Awards, visit the Greening the Department of the Interior website at http://www.doi.gov/greening/index.cfm.

To read this story on the OSM website, go to: http://www.osmre.gov/programs/awards/eaaward.shtm.

Jan. 30, 2014