, Volume 60, Issue 5, pp 1021-1036
Date: 07 Aug 2009

Evaluating remediation alternatives for mine drainage, Little Cottonwood Creek, Utah, USA

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The vast occurrence of mine drainage worldwide, documented in descriptive studies, presents a staggering challenge for remediation. Any tool that can move beyond descriptive study and helps to evaluate options for remediation in a way that maximizes improvements to the water quality of streams and minimizes cost of remediation could save valuable resources and time. A reactive solute transport model, calibrated from two detailed mass-loading studies in Little Cottonwood Creek (LCC), Utah, provides a tool to evaluate remediation options. Metal loading to LCC is dominated by discharge from two mine drainage tunnels. Discharge from an upstream tunnel has been treated by a fen to reduce metal loading. Discharge from the downstream tunnel (WDT) can be controlled because of a bulkhead that creates a mine pool. Simulations of remedial options for three compliance locations suggest that the water-quality standards for Cu and Zn at upstream and downstream compliance locations are met using various combinations of fen treatment and WDT regulation, but the complete compliance at the middle compliance location requires the highest level of fen treatment and the greatest regulation of WDT discharge. Reactive transport modeling is an useful tool for the evaluation of remedial alternatives in complex natural systems, where multiple hydrologic and geochemical processes determine metal fate.