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Stream Channel Resistivity within the Schuylkill Headwaters to Identify Flow Loss in a Watershed Impacted by Abandoned Mine Drainage

Swiontek, J., Sherrod, L., Kadegis, J., 2012. Stream Channel Resistivity within the Schuylkill Headwaters to Identify Flow Loss in a Watershed Impacted by Abandoned Mine Drainage. Proceedings of the Symposium on the Application of Geophysics to Engineering and Environmental Problems (SAGEEP 12), Tucson, AZ, (25 March 29 March 2012).


Abandoned mine drainage (AMD) is a significant problem in areas with a history of coal mining. Clean surface water infiltrates into abandoned underground mine systems and is contaminated via interaction with pyrite, yielding sulfuric acid.  The acidified water subsequently discharges into rivers downstream. The Schuylkill River Watershed of central Pennsylvania contains economically important anthracite deposits which have been mined since the 1800s in the headwaters of the Schuylkill River. The subsurface is rife with abandoned coal mine tunnels, few of which are marked or mapped. AMD is a major concern for both people and wildlife in the Schuylkill River Watershed. Streams throughout this watershed lose water through highly permeable areas of the streambeds.  That water seeps into coal mine tunnels and becomes contaminated. Resistivity surveys along stream channels can be used to identify such seepage points.  These seeps are recognizable as low resistivity anomalies where significant volumes of water infiltrate to become contaminated in the subsurface mine pools. This study includes 44 resistivity profiles that measure a total of  ~1800m (6000ft) of stream channel near Heckscherville, PA from July 2009 and 30 resistivity profiles that measure ~2300m (7600ft) of stream channel west of Heckschersville, PA from May and June of 2011. All profiles were performed using a dipole-dipole array with an electrode spacing of 5m or less.  Flow measurements were analyzed and compared to resistivity anomalies to confirm possible locations of high permeability in the stream channel.  The results of these surveys are used to focus remediation efforts in the headwaters of the Schuylkill Watershed. Stream channel reconstruction or chemical grouting was conducted in 3 locations from the results of the 2009.  Remediation of target locations discovered through the 2011 geophysical surveys is yet to ensue.

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