A seasonal study of a passive abandoned coalmine drainage remediation system reveals three distinct zones of contaminant levels and microbial communities



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Journal Article

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abandoned mine drainage, bacterial communities, passive remediation


A passive remediation system that treats coalmine drainage was sampled to determine the impact seasonal changes had on water quality and microbial diversity. Every quarter for 1 year, water-soil slurries were collected at the influent of the 5 settling ponds and the wetlands, and the effluent of the system. The concentration of 12 metals and sulfate, as well as sequences from the V4 region of the bacterial 16S rrn genes were determined. The water quality analysis revealed high levels of iron and sulfate, and measurable levels of Al, Ba, Cu, Pb, Mn, Sr, and Zn. Iron increased 25-fold in the summer and spikes in metal concentrations were observed during several seasons in pond 3 and the wetlands. These spikes cannot be explained by abiotic chemical reactions in the neutral pH found in the pond. Based on contaminant levels and microbial community composition, our results indicate that there were 3 unique environments in the system (ponds 1 and 2; pond 3; pond 4 through the end) and that changes in contaminant levels and bacterial composition in these environments correlated with seasonal variation. Iron and sulfate are the most prevalent contaminants in the system. An examination of sequences from known iron- and sulfur-cycling bacteria demonstrated that there were more iron-reducing (IRB) bacterial sequences than iron-oxidizing (IOB) (137,912 IRB vs. 98,138 IOB), the two groups of bacteria were found mainly in the fall and winter samples, and were prevalent in different ponds. There were more sulfur/sulfide-oxidizing (SOB) bacterial sequences than sulfur/sulfate-reducing (SRB) bacterial sequences (72,978 SOB vs 30,504 SRB), they were found mainly in the fall and winter samples, and the sequences were mixed in ponds 4, 5 and the wetlands effluent. Iron is remediated in this system but sulfate is not.

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