Detection of Mixing Dynamics During Pumping of a Flooded Coal Mine

Trevor Elliot, Paul L. Younger

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    Abstract

    In complex hydrogeological environments the effective management of groundwater quality problems by pump-and-treat operations can be most confidently achieved if the mixing dynamics induced within the aquifer by pumping are well understood. The utility of isotopic environmental tracers (C-, H-, O-, S-stable isotopic analyses and age indicators—14C, 3H) for this purpose is illustrated by the analysis of a pumping test in an abstraction borehole drilled into flooded, abandoned coal mineworkings at Deerplay (Lancashire, UK). Interpretation of the isotope data was undertaken conjunctively with that of major ion hydrochemistry, and interpreted in the context of the particular hydraulic setting of flooded mineworkings to identify the sources and mixing of water qualities in the groundwater system. Initial pumping showed breakdown of initial water quality stratification in the borehole, and gave evidence for distinctive isotopic signatures (d34S(SO4) ~= -1.6‰, d18O(SO4) ~= +15‰) associated with primary oxidation of pyrite in the zone of water table fluctuation—the first time this phenomenon has been successfully characterized by these isotopes in a flooded mine system. The overall aim of the test pumping—to replace an uncontrolled outflow from a mine entrance in an inconvenient location with a pumped discharge on a site where treatment could be provided—was swiftly achieved. Environmental tracing data illustrated the benefits of pumping as little as possible to attain this aim, as higher rates of pumping induced in-mixing of poorer quality waters from more distant old workings, and/or renewed pyrite oxidation in the shallow subsurface.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)251–263
    Number of pages18
    JournalGroundwater
    Volume52
    Issue number2
    Early online date04 Apr 2013
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014

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