Batch-mixing experiments were used to help identify lithologic and mineralogic sources of increased concentrations of dissolved solids in water affected by surface coal mining in northwestern Colorado. Ten overburden core samples were analyzed for mineral composition and mixed with distilled water for 90 days until mineral-water equilibrium was reached. Between one day and 90 days after initial contact, specific conductance in the sample mixtures had a median increase of 306 percent. Dissolved-solids concentrations ranged from 200 to 8,700 mg/L in water samples extracted from the mixtures after 90 days. Mass-balance simulations were conducted using the geochemical models BALANCE and WATEQF to quantify mineral-water interactions occurring in five selected sample mixtures and in water collected from a spring at a reclaimed mine site. The spring water is affected by mineral-water interactions occurring in all of the lithologic units comprising the overburden. Results of the simulations indicate that oxidation of pyrite, dissolution of dolomite, gypsum, and epsomite, and cation-exchange reactions are the primary mineral-water interactions occurring in the overburden. Three lithologic units in the overburden (a coal, a sandstone, and a shale) probably contribute most of the dissolved solids to the spring water. Water sample extracts from mixtures using core from these three units accounted for 85 percent of the total dissolved solids in the 10 sample extracts. Other lithologic units in the over-burden probably contribute smaller quantities of dissolved solids to the spring water.
Additional publication details
Identification of dissolved-constituent sources in mine-site ground water using batch mixing