The Applicability of Passive Treatment Systems for the Mitigation of Acid Mine Drainage at the Williams Brothers Mine, Mariposa County, California: Bench- and Pilot-Scale Studies
Clyde, Erin Jane
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The Williams Brothers Mine is located in Mariposa County, California. Surface waters from the site drain into the south fork of the Merced River and the San Joaquin River Basin. The mine was developed in the 1980s and mined intermittently until 1996. In 1998, concerns of acidic drainage at the site arose. Effluent sampling by Engineering Remediation Resources Group (ERRG) found acid mine drainage (AMD) characterized by a pH of 3.9, sulphate concentrations of 100 mg/L and low metal concentrations of 0.074, 4.60, 1.23, 0.047 and 0.133 mg/L for Cu, Fe, Mn, Ni and Zn, respectively. The aim of this research was to evaluate passive treatment system alternatives for the mitigation of the AMD to meet water quality objectives for the San Joaquin River Basin. A bench-scale study was undertaken which consisted of 3 systems treating synthetic AMD: (1) a peat biofilter to remove dissolved metals followed by an anoxic limestone drain (ALD) to increase alkalinity and pH; (2) a sulfate reducing bacteria (SRB) bioreactor followed by an ALD, in which SRB reduce sulphate to sulfides, generating alkalinity and decreasing metal concentrations via metal sulfide precipitation; and (3) a SRB bioreactor. Synthetic AMD was produced to represent AMD characteristics observed at the site. The peat-ALD system effluent pH was 6.9 and concentrations of Fe and Cu decreased to below water quality objectives with concentrations of 0.008 and 0.06, respectively. The SRB-ALD and SRB system effluents met water quality objectives for pH and Cu, Ni and Zn metal concentrations. The effluent pH for both systems was 6.5. The SRB-ALD system reduced Cu, Ni and Zn to concentrations of 0.004, 0.016 and 0.025 mg/L, respectively. The SRB system reduced metal concentrations for Cu, Ni and Zn 0.006, 0.010 and 0.027 mg/L, respectively. Based on the bench-scale study, the pilot-scale system consisted of a combined passive treatment system containing a peat biofilter, SRB bioreactor and a limestone drain. Pilot-scale testing commenced on May 23rd, 2007. To date, some metal attenuation has been observed, with average effluent concentrations of Cu, Fe, Mn, Ni and Zn equal to <0.005, 0.92, 0.45, <0.005 and 0.049 mg/L, respectively.