Anaerobic Compost Constructed Wetlands System (CWS) Technology: Innovative Technology Evaluation Report


As part of the Superfund Innovative Technology Evaluation (SITE) Program, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) evaluated constructed wetlands systems (CWS) for removing high concentrations of zinc from mine drainage at the Burleigh Tunnel in Silver Plume, Colorado. Exploration geologists have known for many years that metals, most commonly copper, iron, manganese, uranium, and zinc, frequently accumulate in swamps and bogs located in mineralized areas. This understanding forms the basis for the design of CWS - essentially excavated pits filled with organic matter - that have been developed and constructed over the past 15 years to treat drainage from abandoned coal mines in the eastern United States. Mine drainage is routed through the organic material, where metals are removed through a combination of physical, chemical, and biological processes. In fall 1994, anaerobic compost wetlands in both upflow and downflow configurations were constructed adjacent to and received drainage from the Burleigh Tunnel, which forms part of the Clear Creek/Central City Superfund site. The systems were operated over a 3-year period. The effectiveness of treatment by the CWS was evaluated by comparing the concentration of zinc and other metals from corresponding influent and effluent analyses. By far the dominant toxic metal present in the drainage was zinc. The upflow CWS removed an average of 93 percent of the zinc during the first year of operation, and 49 and 43 percent during the second and third years. The downflow CWS removed an average of 77 percent of zinc during the first year and 70 percent during the second year. (Flow was discontinued to the downflow system in the third year.)


144 pages; available for download at the link below.


Burleigh Tunnel, Colorado, zinc pollution, Superfund Innovative Technology Evaluation Program, constructed wetlands, environmental protection