Acid mine water treatment using engineered wetlands
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During the last two decades, the United States mining industry has greatly increased the amount it spends on pollution control. The application of biotechnology to mine water can reduce the industry's water treatment costs (estimated at over a million dollars a day) and improve water quality in streams and rivers adversely affected by acidic mine water draining from abandoned mines.
Biological treatment of mine waste water is typically conducted in a series of small excavated ponds that resemble, in a superficial way, a small marsh area. The ponds are engineered to first facilitate bacterial oxidation of iron; ideally, the water then flows through a composted organic substrate that supports a population of sulfate-reducing bacteria. The latter process raises the pH. During the past four years, over 400 wetland water treatment systems have been built on mined lands as a result of research by the U.S. Bureau of Mines. In general, mine operators find that the wetlands reduce chemical treatment costs enough to repay the cost of wetland construction in less than a year.
Actual rates of iron removal at field sites have been used to develop empirical sizing criteria based on iron loading and pH. If the pH is 6 or above, the wetland area (m2) required is equivalent to the iron load (grams/day) divided by 10. Theis requirement doubles at a pH of 4 to 5. At a pH below 4, the iron load (grams/day) should be divided by 2 to estimate the area required (m2).
KeywordsMine Water Acid Mine Drainage Mine Drainage Bacterial Sulfate Reduction Acid Mine Water
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