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Site-specific water quality guidelines: 2. Development of a water quality regulation framework for pulse exposures of mine water discharges at a uranium mine in northern Australia

Abstract

The Ranger Uranium Mine, in northern Australia, is monitored by the Supervising Scientist Division (SSD) of the Australian Government to ensure that it does not impact on the highly valued aquatic ecosystems of Kakadu National Park. In 2010, the SSD adopted the continuous monitoring of electrical conductivity (EC) and turbidity, in combination with event-triggered automated grab samples, as its primary water quality monitoring method. The continuous monitoring of EC has shown that mine discharges typically occur over short-term ‘pulse’ durations of minutes to hours. Given that magnesium (Mg) is the most likely mine-derived solute to approach or exceed the applicable water quality limit value, the focus has been on developing a pulse exposure assessment framework for Mg, as represented by its proxy EC, which is tracked by the continuous monitoring system. This study presents a possible ecotoxicologically derived Mg pulse exposure limit and trigger regulation framework for Magela and Gulungul Creeks and an assessment of historic continuous monitoring EC data from these creeks. This framework demonstrates potential to supersede the current EC guideline and associated trigger levels, which are statistically derived from historic grab sample data.

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Correspondence to A. Sinclair.

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Responsible editor: Philippe Garrigues

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Sinclair, A., Tayler, K., van Dam, R. et al. Site-specific water quality guidelines: 2. Development of a water quality regulation framework for pulse exposures of mine water discharges at a uranium mine in northern Australia. Environ Sci Pollut Res 21, 131–140 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-013-1922-4

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-013-1922-4

Keywords

  • Water quality guidelines
  • Regulation
  • Uranium
  • Mining
  • Trigger values
  • Alligator Rivers Region
  • Aquatic ecosystems