Environmental impact of uncontrolled waste disposal in mining and industrial areas in Central Germany
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The present-day landscape in Central Germany, in particular the region of Leipzig, Halle and Bitterfeld, is characterized by the scars of former industrial activities. Vast districts have been devastated by lignite strip mining. Industrial and domestic waste, residues from ore smelting, and highly toxic waste products from petrochemical plants and pesticide production were deposited in abandoned pits near population centers. The chief effects of waste on the environment are the contamination of groundwater by dissolved pollutants, the acidification of soil and water by the oxidation of pyrite-containing mining waste, and the salinization of shallow aquifers by rising brines from adjacent confined groundwater affected by mining. The consequences for the region are serious: mining lakes used for recreational purposes are contaminated by leachates from adjacent waste dumps. Pyrite-containing refuse from lignite mining under oxidation gives rise to the acidification of surface and groundwater, a basic condition for pollutant mobilization. In former metal mining districts, metalliferous and radioactive residues from smelting jeopardize public health. These effects are described in detail using three case studies.
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