DOI: 10.5593/SGEM2016/B31/S12.100


O. Korostynska, A.Mason, P. Byrne
Wednesday 7 September 2016 by Libadmin2016

References: 16th International Multidisciplinary Scientific GeoConference SGEM 2016, www.sgem.org, SGEM2016 Conference Proceedings, ISBN 978-619-7105-61-2 / ISSN 1314-2704, June 28 - July 6, 2016, Book3 Vol. 1, 765-772 pp

Abandoned mines are one of the most significant pollution threats in Britain and all over the industrialised world. Many thousands of mines have been abandoned and now discharge minewater containing heavy metals and other pollutants into the watercourses. Approximately 9% of Welsh rivers fail to meet environmental standards due to contaminated drainage from over 1,300 abandoned metal mines. Metal mine drainage is best represented as a ‘cocktail’ of contaminants that can include low pH and high concentrations of a variety of toxic metals. From an ecological point of view, Zinc and Lead are of particular concern due to their high concentrations in river water and sediments, respectively. Zinc is frequently found to breach environmental quality standards for river water while Lead is commonly found to exceed sediment quality guidelines. From a mine water remediation perspective, Zinc and Cadmium pose the greatest challenge due to the difficulty of removing these metals in traditional treatment systems.
The standard approach to measuring metal concentrations in river water relies on manual sampling and transport to a laboratory for analysis. This can incur substantial and ongoing labour and operating costs for environmental regulators and can also introduce significant error into results if field and laboratory practices are not standardised. On-line monitoring of real-time metal concentrations and loads offers the potential for more effective emergency response and the platform for better scientific knowledge and understanding and remediation of contaminated mine drainage.
This paper reports on feasibility assessment of using bespoke electromagnetic wave sensing approach, which can be utilised for the real-time monitoring of metal contamination in water. Such sensors have been developed at Liverpool John Moores University for a range of applications, including food quality detection, healthcare and water quality monitoring. The sensors are developed in order to ensure low-cost and continuous operation which, if coupled with appropriate wireless hardware, can enable them to operate remotely in mine affected river catchments for true online monitoring.
No other system can cost-effectively provide information regarding metal contamination of water in real-time, meaning that response to changes in contaminant levels is delayed while laboratory testing is conducted on water samples. It is anticipated that the application of this novel sensor technology will facilitate prioritisation of treatment (both current and future) methods to particular catchment areas, as well as provide an indicator of treatment effectiveness. Principally this paper reports on the efficacy of the developed electromagnetic wave systems for detecting metals in water, including Cadmium, Lead, Copper, Manganese and Zinc.

Keywords: Water quality, mine waters, electromagnetic sensors, heavy metal pollution.