Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Evaluating remedial alternatives for an acid mine drainage stream: Application of a reactive transport model

January 1, 2002

A reactive transport model based on one-dimensional transport and equilibrium chemistry is applied to synoptic data from an acid mine drainage stream. Model inputs include streamflow estimates based on tracer dilution, inflow chemistry based on synoptic sampling, and equilibrium constants describing acid/base, complexation, precipitation/dissolution, and sorption reactions. The dominant features of observed spatial profiles in pH and metal concentration are reproduced along the 3.5-km study reach by simulating the precipitation of Fe(III) and Al solid phases and the sorption of Cu, As, and Pb onto freshly precipitated iron(III) oxides. Given this quantitative description of existing conditions, additional simulations are conducted to estimate the streamwater quality that could result from two hypothetical remediation plans. Both remediation plans involve the addition of CaCO3 to raise the pH of a small, acidic inflow from ∼2.4 to ∼7.0. This pH increase results in a reduced metal load that is routed downstream by the reactive transport model, thereby providing an estimate of post-remediation water quality. The first remediation plan assumes a closed system wherein inflow Fe(II) is not oxidized by the treatment system; under the second remediation plan, an open system is assumed, and Fe(II) is oxidized within the treatment system. Both plans increase instream pH and substantially reduce total and dissolved concentrations of Al, As, Cu, and Fe(II+III) at the terminus of the study reach. Dissolved Pb concentrations are reduced by ∼18% under the first remediation plan due to sorption onto iron(III) oxides within the treatment system and stream channel. In contrast, iron(III) oxides are limiting under the second remediation plan, and removal of dissolved Pb occurs primarily within the treatment system. This limitation results in an increase in dissolved Pb concentrations over existing conditions as additional downstream sources of Pb are not attenuated by sorption.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2002
Title Evaluating remedial alternatives for an acid mine drainage stream: Application of a reactive transport model
DOI 10.1021/es0109794
Authors R.L. Runkel, B. A. Kimball
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Environmental Science & Technology
Index ID 70024834
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Toxic Substances Hydrology Program