Geologists Investigate The Impact Of Carbon Dioxide Released From 140 Coal Mines In Pennsylvania

First Posted: Jun 19, 2016 04:54 AM EDT

The geologists from West Virginia University discovered that the collective estimates of carbon dioxide that were released into the atmosphere from 140 coal mines in Pennsylvania is equivalent to that of a small power plant.

The investigation was led by Dorothy Vesper, an associate professor in the Department of Geology and Geography at West Virginia University and other colleagues. They used a meter designed for measuring carbon dioxide in beverages to measure the carbon dioxide in mine drainage water. They were able to calculate the amount of carbon dioxide released from the abandoned coal mines.

Vesper explained that the gas is really high in mine waters and people who work with mine waters know that. On the other hand, no one has quantified it in detail. She further said that no one has really developed an accurate way to measure the carbon dioxide coming out, partially because it is very difficult.

Vesper said that people calculate carbon dioxide from alkalinity; this is the capability of water to neutralize an acid. The pH has to be above five. On the other hand, if there is a lot of carbon dioxide dissolved in the water, it decreases the pH below five. Vesper added that a lot of those very low pH waters have plenty of carbon dioxide in them. People just ignore this.

Acid mine drainage also known as metalliferous drainage is the outflow of acidic water from coal mines or metal mines. This (mine drainage) is linked to contaminated drinking water. It also disturbed the reproduction and growth of plants and animals and infrastructure corrosion. When the mine waters release at the land surface, some of the carbon dioxides releases into the atmosphere.

Vesper and her team want to get a much more quantitative assessment at more sites. They are going to work with some of the geographic system researchers at the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural resources, and Design to determine if they can do a larger scale estimate for Pennsylvania or West Virginia.

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