Rock Creek is a beautiful stream, with magnificent boulders, riffles, glides, and pools. Flowing through southeastern Kentucky on Stearns Ranger District, it is both a Blue Ribbon trout fishery and a Kentucky Wild River. However, highly acidic water flowing from abandoned mine lands left the stream virtually dead from White Oak Junction to the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River. The acid mine drainage had killed most of the vegetation and aquatic life in the stream.
The Rock Creek Task Force was formed with the cooperation of ten state and federal agencies and Trout Unlimited to tend to the needs of the Rock Creek watershed. Restoration work began in 2000 to improve water quality, sustain aquatic life, and bring back the beauty of the steam.
Innovative wetlands were constructed to treat the mine flow heading into the stream. Limestone sand was placed in Rock Creek to neutralize the acidic water coming from the mines. Tons of coal refuse material was removed, treated, and relocated to designated storage locations. Limestone rock was placed along the channels as they enter Rock Creek to boost alkalinity.
Monitoring of Lower Rock Creek has shown an improvement in water quality and aquatic life. The charts below show how acidity has been reduced and alkalinity increased at several sites.
Fish surveys at lower Rock Creek have yielded multiple species in good and improving numbers. A July 2001 fish survey collected a brown trout and a blackside dace, each found in different parts of the Rock Creek watershed. The most optimistic sign of all is the presence of anglers who have returned to fish the lower portion of Rock Creek.
Water Tank Hollow, a three-acre site located on the north bank of Lower Rock Creek, was once used for dumping mining refuse. Secondary acid forming minerals were observed in the refuse as shown in the chart below. About 20,000-30,000 tons of coal refuse material was removed, treated and deposited in a safe location.
The Forest Service invites public review and comment on potential environmental remediation at the Rock Creek abandoned coal mine sites.
The Rock Creek Mine Sites are located in the Daniel Boone National Forest, Stearns Ranger District, McCreary County, approximately five miles west of Stearns, Kentucky.
The U.S. Forest Service is examining this site to:
- evaluate the environmental impacts;
- assess public health risks; and
- minimize the impacts associated with historic coal mining activities in this area.
Project Fact Sheet (pdf)
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service invites public review and comment on potential environmental remediation at the Rock Creek abandoned coal mine sites in McCreary County, Ky. This action is in accordance with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency guidance under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980.
An Engineering Evaluation/Cost Analysis (EE/CA) summarizes possible alternatives to reduce or remove acid mine drainage impacts at the abandoned coal mine locations. This draft document and other project-related reports will be available soon for review at the Daniel Boone National Forest Supervisor’s Office, Stearns District office, and online at www.fs.usda.gov/dbnf/. Office addresses can also be found on that web page.
Public comments on the draft EE/CA will be accepted in the near future for a period of thirty (30) days. Tentative plans are to make this draft EE/CA available for public review and comments sometime in November, 2016. Comments and responses will be summarized and included in open records. Written comments may be sent to the Daniel Boone National Forest Supervisor’s Office or emailed to:
[email protected] with CERCLA as the subject line.