Thursday, February 17, 2011

Suppressing the acidic damage from coal mine drainage

A Temple University professor is working on a new technology to limit the damage to streams and lakes from coal mine effluent. 

Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) is a devastating environmental problem that is created when metal sulfides contained in mine waste are exposed to water and oxygen. The decomposition of the sulfide results in an a high level of  acidic and toxic metal-laden runoff that's harmful to surface and ground water.

US-based mines spend an estimated $1 million daily for the treatment of the waste effluent.  

“When water fills a mine’s underground tunnels, it leaches the sulfuric acid off the walls and can get into the nearby groundwater,” said Temple Chemistry Professor Daniel Strongin.

Chemicals such as lime are used to neutralize acidic runoff, but they do not eliminate the root cause, Strongin said. So his lab is developing a technology that uses lipid molecules that bind to the metal sulfide, forming a hydrophobic layer that keeps water, oxygen and bacteria from causing it to decompose.

Potential commercial application for the technology include the remediation of submerged underground abandoned mining sites and above-ground waste piles, and protection of coal stores at power plants that generate AMD.

Learn more at:
Researchers focus attention on threats to Pa. water resources 
Technology to Suppress Acidic Runoff from Coal Mines

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