A biological source treatment (BST) technique using remote sensing and biogeochemistry has been developed to address acid mine drainage (AMD) at its source. The BST technique utilizes down-hole injections of microbial inoculum and substrate amendments to establish a biofilm on the surface of metal sulfides (AMD source material). The treatment results in an elevated groundwater pH (from acidic to circum-neutral levels) and prevents further oxidation of AMD source material. The first 2 years of an ongoing field study of the BST technique at a reclaimed coal mine in central Tennessee (USA) has produced successful results. For instance, the water chemistry in a monitoring well down-gradient from injection wells has improved substantially as follows: the pH increased 1.3 units from 5.7 to 7.3, the dissolved (0.45 µm-filtered) iron concentration decreased by 84% from 93 to 15 mg/l, the conductivity decreased by 379 µS/cm, and sulfate decreased by 78 mg/l. Electromagnetic induction surveys were conducted to identify AMD source material and monitor BST performance by measuring changes in subsurface resistivity throughout the site. These surveys revealed a treatment zone created between injection wells where the resistance of contaminated groundwater from up-gradient AMD sources increased as it flowed past injection wells, thus, suggesting this technique could be used to treat AMD sources directly or to intercept and neutralize sub-surface AMD.
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The authors thank Joel Mason and Roger Gray for conducting field sampling and EM surveys. Financial support was provided by the United States Department of Energy (DoE) and Rio Tinto Energy America through WRI’s Cooperative Agreement No. DE-FC26-98FT40322 with DoE. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed herein are those of the authors and do not reflect the view of the DoE.
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Jin, S., Fallgren, P.H., Morris, J.M. et al. Source Treatment of Acid Mine Drainage at a Backfilled Coal Mine Using Remote Sensing and Biogeochemistry. Water Air Soil Pollut 188, 205–212 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11270-007-9536-4
- Acid mine drainage
- Biological source treatment
- Electromagnetic induction survey