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Lookup NU author(s): Professor Paul Younger
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In County Durham the forthcoming closure of two coastal collieries is, in effect, the final closure of a large hydraulically interconnected coalfield which has been progressively dewatered over three centuries. Groundwater will gradually rise through the previously worked strata after the cessation of coalfield dewatering. Past experience shows that the rising groundwater will develop high acidity and heavy metal loadings as oxidized pyrite remnants are dissolved. Conceptual modelling suggests that this acidic groundwater will ultimately discharge into the River Wear and its tributaries, with serious consequences for the aquatic ecology and human use of the River Wear system. Further environmental impacts may include (a) groundwater pollution in the adjacent Basal Permian Sands aquifer, (b) leaching from landfills intersected by the rising water table, (c) compromised integrity of foundations, (d) increased flows in old sewers below the new rest water level (leading to problems at sewage-treatment works and combined sewer overflows), (e) corrosion of other buried services, (f) surface gas emissions, and (g) long-term subsidence risk from old workings. The prevention of these impacts would involve long-term maintenance of regional dewatering, although local mitigation of most effects could be arranged - albeit at considerable cost. Current legislation fails to place responsibility for the prevention of such environmental impacts in the hands of any one organization; this 'vacuum of responsibility' needs to be addressed urgently if a pragmatic, consensual approach to environmental protection in abandoned coalfields is to be pursued.
Author(s): Younger PL
Publication type: Article
Publication status: Published
Journal: Journal of the Institution of Water and Environmental Management
Print publication date: 01/10/1993
ISSN (print): 1747-6585
ISSN (electronic): 1747-6593
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
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