US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Published in Mine Water Environ.


A variety of passive and semi-passive treatment systems were constructed by state and local agencies to neutralize acidic mine drainage (AMD) and reduce the transport of dissolved metals in the upper Swatara Creek Basin in the Southern Anthracite Coalfield in eastern Pennsylvania. To evaluate the effectiveness of selected treatment systems installed during 1995–2001, the US Geological Survey collected water-quality data at upstream and downstream locations relative to each system eight or more times annually for a minimum of 3 years at each site during 1996– 2007. Performance was normalized among treatment types by dividing the acid load removed by the size of the treatment system. For the limestone sand, open limestone channel, oxic limestone drain, anoxic limestone drain (ALD), and limestone diversion well treatment systems, the size was indicated by the total mass of limestone; for the aerobic wetland systems, the size was indicated by the total surface area of ponds and wetlands. Additionally, the approximate cost per tonne of acid treated over an assumed service life of 20 years was computed. On the basis of these performance metrics, the limestone sand, ALD, oxic limestone drain, and limestone diversion wells had similar ranges of acid-removal efficiency and cost efficiency. However, the open limestone channel had lower removal efficiency and higher cost per ton of acid treated. The wetlands effectively attenuated metals transport but were relatively expensive considering metrics that evaluated acid removal and cost efficiency. Although the water-quality data indicated that all treatments reduced the acidity load from AMD, the ALD was most effective at producing near-neutral pH and attenuating acidity and dissolved metals. The diversion wells were effective at removing acidity and increasing pH of downstream water and exhibited unique potential to treat moderate to high flows associated with storm flow conditions.