Microcosm Testing of Municipal Sewage and Green Waste for Full-scale Remediation of an Acid Coal Pit Lake, in Semi-arid Tropical Australia.

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


American Society of Mining and Reclamation (ASMR)


Computing, Health and Science


Natural Sciences




This article was originally published as: Mcullough, C. D., Lund, M. A., & May, J. M. (2006). Microcosm testing of municipal sewage and green waste for full-scale remediation of an acid coal pit lake, in semi-arid tropical Australia. Proceedings of International Conference on Acid Rock Drainage (ICARD). (pp. 1177-1197). USA. American Society of Mining and Reclamation (ASMR). Original article available here


Pit lakes (abandoned flooded mine pits) represent a potentially valuable water resource to mining companies, the environment and regional communities across arid inland Australia. However, the water is often of low pH with high dissolved metal concentrations. The addition of organic matter to the pit lakes to enhance microbial sulfate reduction is potentially a cost effective and sustainable remediation strategy for these acid waters. However, the cost and availability of sufficient quantities of suitable organic substrates is typically limiting in these remote regions. Nevertheless, small quantities of sewage and green waste (organic garden waste) are often available in these areas from the regional towns which support the mines. This paper reports on preliminary microcosm laboratory experiments in preparation for the treatment of an acid (pH 2.2) coal mine pit lake in semi-arid tropical, inland north Queensland, Australia with municipal treated sewage and green waste. A laboratory experiment using microcosms (acrylic tubes) containing acid pit lake water and sediment were treated as follows; controls (untreated), sewage, green waste and sewage and green waste. The pH increased to a maximum of 5.5 in 145 days in the green waste and sewage treatment, with notable decreases of iron, aluminium and toxic heavy metals. Our results indicated that the green waste was a key component in alkalinity production and heavy metal removal.