Abandoned Mine Drainage in the Swatara Creek Basin, Southern Anthracite Coalfield, Pennsylvania, USA: 2. Performance of Treatment Systems

Abstract

A variety of passive and semi-passive treatment systems were constructed by state and local agencies to neutralize acidic mine drainage (AMD) and reduce the transport of dissolved metals in the upper Swatara Creek Basin in the Southern Anthracite Coalfield in eastern Pennsylvania. To evaluate the effectiveness of selected treatment systems installed during 1995–2001, the US Geological Survey collected water-quality data at upstream and downstream locations relative to each system eight or more times annually for a minimum of 3 years at each site during 1996–2007. Performance was normalized among treatment types by dividing the acid load removed by the size of the treatment system. For the limestone sand, open limestone channel, oxic limestone drain, anoxic limestone drain (ALD), and limestone diversion well treatment systems, the size was indicated by the total mass of limestone; for the aerobic wetland systems, the size was indicated by the total surface area of ponds and wetlands. Additionally, the approximate cost per tonne of acid treated over an assumed service life of 20 years was computed. On the basis of these performance metrics, the limestone sand, ALD, oxic limestone drain, and limestone diversion wells had similar ranges of acid-removal efficiency and cost efficiency. However, the open limestone channel had lower removal efficiency and higher cost per ton of acid treated. The wetlands effectively attenuated metals transport but were relatively expensive considering metrics that evaluated acid removal and cost efficiency. Although the water-quality data indicated that all treatments reduced the acidity load from AMD, the ALD was most effective at producing near-neutral pH and attenuating acidity and dissolved metals. The diversion wells were effective at removing acidity and increasing pH of downstream water and exhibited unique potential to treat moderate to high flows associated with storm flow conditions.

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Acknowledgments

This research was supported by the PaDEP and the Schuylkill Conservation District with funding from the USEPA Nonpoint Point Source National Monitoring Program, the USDOE, and the USGS Cooperative Water-Resources Program. The author is grateful to Roger J. Hornberger and Daniel J. Koury of PaDEP for their sustained support. Jeffrey J. Chaplin, Emily Eggler, Katherine Tuers Brayton, Suzanne J. Ward, Jeffrey B. Weitzel, and Kovaldas “KB” Balciauskas presently or formerly at USGS, are acknowledged for critical assistance with field work and data processing. Helpful reviews of early drafts of the manuscript were provided by Michael J. Langland, Ralph J. Haefner, J. Kent Crawford, and Kevin J. Breen of USGS, and Christopher H. Gammons of Montana Tech, and an anonymous reviewer. Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

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Correspondence to Charles A. Cravotta III.

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Figure A1

Water-quality data upstream (C4) and downstream (C6) of treatment with limestone sand in Coal Run (LSC). Vertical dashed line indicates implementation date of treatment. Access road was restricted from December 1997 to March 1999; upstream data were not collected after September 2000 (PDF 67 kb)

Figure A2

Water-quality data upstream (B1) and downstream (B3) of treatment with open limestone channel on Swatara Creek (OLC). Vertical dashed line indicates implementation date of treatment. Upstream data were not collected after September 2000 (PDF 82 kb)

Figure A3

Water-quality data upstream (H0) and downstream (H1) of treatment with oxic limestone drain (OLD) at Hegins discharge (ODH). Vertical dashed line indicates implementation date of treatment. After initial implementation, limestone was added in September 2005 (dash-dot line) (PDF 84 kb)

Figure A4

Water-quality data upstream (A1) and downstream (A2, A3) of treatment with anoxic limestone drain (ALD) at Buck Mountain discharge (ADB). Vertical dashed line indicates implementation date of treatment. After initial implementation, limestone was added in January 2001 and September 2005 (dash-dot line) (PDF 115 kb)

Figure A5

Water-quality data upstream (C1) and downstream (C3) of treatment with limestone diversion wells on Swatara Creek (DWS) near Newtown. Vertical dashed line indicates implementation date of treatment (PDF 96 kb)

Figure A6

Water-quality data upstream (E2-0) and downstream (E2-1) of treatment with limestone diversion wells on Lorberry Creek (WLL) below the Rowe Tunnel discharge. Vertical dashed line indicates implementation date of treatment (PDF 88 kb)

Figure A7

Water-quality data upstream (E2-1A) and downstream (E2-2) of treatment with aerobic wetlands on Lorberry Creek (WLL) below the diversion wells. Vertical dashed line indicates implementation date of treatment (PDF 75 kb)

Figure A8

Water-quality data upstream (E3-1) and downstream (E3-2) of treatment with limestone- compost wetlands on Lower Rausch Creek (WLR). Vertical dashed line indicates implementation date of treatment (PDF 87 kb)

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Cravotta, C.A. Abandoned Mine Drainage in the Swatara Creek Basin, Southern Anthracite Coalfield, Pennsylvania, USA: 2. Performance of Treatment Systems. Mine Water Environ 29, 200–216 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10230-010-0113-5

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Keywords

  • Coal mines
  • Diversion well
  • Limestone sand
  • Limestone channel
  • Limestone drain
  • Wetland