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Coal in Composting area. What to do?

I’m in charge of setting up a medium-large scale composting area approx. 200×200’ right where the old coal tipple was located. There is a bit of coal scattered around the area and we’re wondering about leaching effects and toxicity of coal. Should we remove the coal by simply moving the topsoil or should we bring in new topsoil and cover it? I’m also concerned with leaching of the compost piles into a nearby stream about 200’ away. What’s the best way to setup a composting area for yard waste and brewery spent grain waste, approx 9 yards of grass clippings and 2 tons of brewery waste a week?

Re: Coal in Composting area. What to do?

What kind of coal is it - anthracite, bituminous, lignite?

Coal itself is not toxic. Varieties of coal are actually used in water purification systems.

How much is a "bit of coal scattered around", 1" deep, 3" deep? If it is as I picture "scattered around", I would bring in topsoil if what is there will not support growing grass. The coal mixed in with the soil will not prevent grass any more than any other rock would.

I can't help you with the brewery waste question. I am sure somebody else will be along with an answer, though.

Re: Coal in Composting area. What to do?

bp21901. Thank you for the reply. There are a few things going on here. I'm not sure of the coal makeup, however given the history for the area, Smelter, Durango & Sliverton Narrow Guage, my assumption would be that it's a relatively high carbon coal, i.e. bituminous or sub-bituminous.

Directly surrounding the tipple there is a substantial layer about 6" deep. This area is likely going to be flagged for reclamation. The outer area only has fragments ranging from pea to few softball sized pieces.

Our primary concern is getting coal in to the compost and the potential health concerns that would carry if say it leached or further fragmented. We'll likely put down about 3" of crushed stone as a base. There does not seem to be a tremendous amount of wind blown derbies.

Ultimately I feel a soil test would be necessary to determine how much precaution is needed.

Any insight is greatly appreciated! Thank you!

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