Prediction of diffuse sulfate emissions from a former mining district and associated groundwater discharges to surface waters

Bastian Graupner, Christian Koch, Henning Prommer

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    9 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Rivers draining mining districts are often affected by the diffuse input of polluted groundwaters. The severity and longevity of the impact depends on a wide range of factors such as the source terms, the hydraulic regime, the distance between pollutant sources and discharge points and the dilution by discharge from upstream river reaches. In this study a deterministic multi-mine life-cycle model was developed. It is used to characterize pollutant sources and to quantify the resulting current and future effects on both groundwater and river water quality. Thereby sulfate acts as proxy for mining-related impacts. The model application to the Lausitz mining district (Germany) shows that the most important factors controlling concentrations and discharge of sulfate are mixing/dilution with ambient groundwater and the rates of biological sulfate reduction during subsurface transport. In contrast, future impacts originating from the unsaturated zones of the mining dumps showed to be of little importance due to the high age of the mining dumps and the associated depletion in reactive iron-sulfides. The simulations indicate that currently the groundwater borne diffuse input of sulfate into the rivers Kleine Spree and Spree is ~2200. t/years. Our predictions suggest a future increase to ~11,000. t/years within the next 40. years. Depending on river discharge rates this represents an increase in sulfate concentration of 40-300. mg/L. A trend reversal for the surface water discharge is not expected before 2050.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)169-178
    Number of pages10
    JournalJournal of Hydrology
    Volume513
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2014

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