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Oxic limestone drains for treatment of dilute, acidic mine drainage

December 31, 1998

Limestone treatment systems can be effective for remediation of acidic mine drainage (AMD) that contains moderate concentrations of dissolved O2 , Fe3+ , or A13+ (1‐5 mg‐L‐1 ). Samples of water and limestone were collected periodically for 1 year at inflow, outflow, and intermediate points within underground, oxic limestone drains (OLDs) in Pennsylvania to evaluate the transport of dissolved metals and the effect of pH and Fe‐ and Al‐hydrolysis products on the rate of limestone dissolution. The influent was acidic and relatively dilute (pH <4; acidity < 90 mg‐L‐1 ) but contained 1‐4 mg‐L‐1 Of O2 , Fe3+ , A13+ , and Mn2+ . The total retention time in the OLDs ranged from 1.0 to 3.1 hours. Effluent remained oxic (02 >1 mg‐L‐1 ) but was near neutral (pH = 6.2‐7.0); Fe and Al decreased to less than 5% of influent concentrations. As pH increased near the inflow, hydrous Fe and Al oxides precipitated in the OLDs. The hydrous oxides, nominally Fe(OH)3 and AI(OH)3, were visible as loosely bound, orange‐yellow coatings on limestone near the inflow. As time elapsed, Fe(OH)3 and AI(OH)3 particles were transported downflow. During the first 6 months of the experiment, Mn 2+ was transported conservatively through the OLDs; however, during the second 6 months, concentrations of Mn in effluent decreased by about 50% relative to influent. The accumulation of hydrous oxides and elevated pH (>5) in the downflow part of the OLDs promoted sorption and coprecipitation of Mn as indicated by its enrichment relative to Fe in hydrous‐oxide particles and coatings on limestone. Despite thick (~1 mm) hydrous‐oxide coatings on limestone near the inflow, CaCO3 dissolution was more rapid near the inflow than at downflow points within the OLD where the limestone was not coated. The rate of limestone dissolution decreased with increased residence time, pH, and concentrations of Ca2+ and HCO3‐ and decreased PCO2. The following overall reaction shows alkalinity as an ultimate product of the iron hydrolysis reaction in an OLD:

Fe2+ + 0.25 O+CaCO3 + 2.5 H2O --> Fe(OH)3 + 2 Ca2+ + 2 HCO3-

where 2 moles of CaCO3 dissolve for each mole of Fe(OH)3 produced. Hence, in an OLD, rapidly dissolving limestone surfaces are not stable substrates for Fe(OH)3 attachment and armoring. Because overall efficiency is increased by combining neutralization and hydrolysis reactions, an OLD followed by a settling pond requires less land area than needed for a two‐stage treatment system consisting of an anoxic limestone drain an oxidation‐settling pond or wetland. To facilitate removal of hydrous‐oxide sludge, a perforated‐pipe subdrain can be installed within an OLD.

Citation Information

Publication Year 1998
Title Oxic limestone drains for treatment of dilute, acidic mine drainage
Authors Charles A. Cravotta
Publication Type Conference Paper
Publication Subtype Conference Paper
Series Title
Series Number
Index ID 70189499
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Pennsylvania Water Science Center