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J Environ Qual. 2003 Jul-Aug;32(4):1277-89.

Size and performance of anoxic limestone drains to neutralize acidic mine drainage.

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United States Geological Survey, 215 Limekiln Rd., New Cumberland, PA 17070, USA.

Erratum in

  • J Environ Qual. 2004 May-Jun;33(3):1164.


Acidic mine drainage (AMD) can be neutralized effectively in underground, anoxic limestone drains (ALDs). Owing to reaction between the AMD and limestone (CaCO3), the pH and concentrations of alkalinity and calcium increase asymptotically with detention time in the ALD, while concentrations of sulfate, ferrous iron, and manganese typically are unaffected. This paper introduces a method to predict the alkalinity produced within an ALD and to estimate the mass of limestone required for its construction on the basis of data from short-term, closed-container (cubitainer) tests. The cubitainer tests, which used an initial mass of 4 kg crushed limestone completely inundated with 2.8 L AMD, were conducted for 11 to 16 d and provided estimates for the initial and maximum alkalinities and corresponding rates of alkalinity production and limestone dissolution. Long-term (5-11 yr) data for alkalinity and CaCO3 flux at the Howe Bridge, Morrison, and Buck Mountain ALDs in Pennsylvania, USA, indicate that rates of alkalinity production and limestone dissolution under field conditions were comparable with those in cubitainers filled with limestone and AMD from each site. The alkalinity of effluent and intermediate samples along the flow path through the ALDs and long-term trends in the residual mass of limestone and the effluent alkalinity were estimated as a function of the computed detention time within the ALD and second-order dissolution rate models for cubitainer tests. Thus, cubitainer tests can be a useful tool for designing ALDs and predicting their performance.

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