The Appalachian Research Initiative for Environmental Science (ARIES) supported investigations in the Central Appalachian States of Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Ohio. This research encompassed four topic area categories, which were 1) Impacts on Ecosystems, 2) Waste and Water Management, 3) Environmentally Responsible Mining Technology, and 4) Health, Social and Economic Impacts. A brief description of each category is provided in the paragraphs that follow:
Impacts on Ecosystems - Changes to habitat, water chemistry, and other environmental variables from human development have direct implications for upland and aquatic ecosystems. ARIES researchers evaluated the impacts, if any, of mining activity and possible means for mitigating any negative effects.
Waste and Water Management - Concerns have been raised about the impact of mining operations on the chemistry of surface and ground water, especially implications for aquatic ecosystems and human health. The waste treatment methodology, placement of waste materials, and wastewater flow paths has been shown to affect impacts on surface and ground water. ARIES researchers expanded the current state of waste and water management methodologies by improving management principles and developing new water treatment methodologies and technologies. Additionally, ARIES researchers also addressed issues related to the prediction, impacts, and treatment of water chemistry concerns.
Environmentally Responsible Mining Technology - Mining activities, similarly to any large industrial or commercial project, generally result in significant disturbance of existing natural features. ARIES researchers investigated techniques and technologies that would allow mining activities to be conducted in a manner that minimize effects on air, water, and ecosystems.
Health, Social and Economic Impacts - Among the most controversial issues related to coal mining in Appalachia are the alleged impacts on community health in the context of both economic and human health. In terms of the economy, allegations have long existed regarding the “resource curse” that accompanies mining, which states that mining perpetuates poverty. For human health, mining operations have recently been identified as possible causes for a range of diseases from birth defects to cancer. To address these concerns, ARIES researchers evaluated the impacts of coal mining on the Appalachian community. A variety of research approaches were applied including standard epidemiologic, pathway analysis, and factor association techniques to determine specific causes, if any, for these issues.