Renovation of a failed constructed wetland treating acid mine drainage

C. D. Barton, A. D. Karathanasis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Acid mine drainage (AMD) from abandoned underground mines significantly impairs water quality in the Jones Branch watershed in McCreary Co., Kentucky, USA. A 1022-m2 surface-flow wetland was constructed in 1989 to reduce the AMD effects, however, the system failed after six months due to insufficient utilization of the treatment area, inadequate alkalinity production and metal overloading. In an attempt to improve treatment efficiencies, a renovation project was designed incorporating two anoxic limestone drains (ALDs) and a series of anaerobic subsurface drains that promote vertical flow of mine water through a successive alkalinity producing system (SAPS) of limestone beds overlain by organic compost. Analytical results from the 19-month post-renovation period are very encouraging. Mean iron concentrations have decreased from 787 to 39 mg l-1, pH increased from 3.38 to 6.46 and acidity has been reduced from 2244 to 199 mg l-1 (CaCO3 equivalent). Mass removal rates averaged 98% for Al, 95% for Fe, 94% for acidity, 55% for sulfate and 49% for Mn during the study period. The results indicate that increased alkalinity production from limestone dissolution and longer residence time have contributed to sufficient buffering and metal retention. The combination of ALDs and SAPS technologies used in the renovation and the sequence in which they were implemented within the wetland system proved to be an adequate and very promising design for the treatment of this and other sources of high metal load AMD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-50
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Geology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 1999


  • Acid mine drainage
  • Anoxic limestone drains
  • Constructed wetlands

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Pollution
  • Soil Science


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