Pennsylvania Water Science Center


Chuck Cravotta


Images from model figures In cooperation with the
Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection

In collaboration with
Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation (EPCAMR), and
Dauphin County Conservation District

Simulation of Water-Resources Development of Flooded Coal Mines in the Western Middle Anthracite Field, Pennsylvania

by Daniel J. Goode, Charles A. Cravotta, III, Roger J. Hornberger (deceased), and Michael A. Hewitt (EPCAMR)


Abandoned, flooded subsurface coal mines in the Western Middle Anthracite Field, which encompasses an area of 120 square miles in eastern Pennsylvania, are currently pumped for industrial water supply. A preliminary groundwater-flow model of the mine-pool complex was developed by the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PaDEP), the Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation, and the Dauphin County Conservation District, to evaluate the impact of expanded pumping on groundwater levels, mine discharges, and streamflow, and to identify data needs for improved characterization of the mine pool. The conceptual model includes high-permeability mine voids that are connected vertically and horizontally within multi-colliery units (MCU’s). MCU’s were identified on the basis of mine maps, locations of mine discharges, and groundwater levels in the mines measured by PaDEP. The locations and integrity of mine barriers were initially determined from mine maps. The permeability of intact barriers is low, reflecting the hydraulic characteristics of unmined host rock and coal. A steady-state model was calibrated to measured groundwater levels and stream base flow, the latter at many locations composed primarily of discharge from the mine pool. The calibrated model supports the conceptual model of the high-permeability MCU’s separated by low-permeability barriers, and streamflow losses and gains associated with mine-pool infiltration and discharge. However, details of the groundwater-level distribution and the rates of some mine discharges are not well simulated using the preliminary model. Trial simulations indicated that improvements in the model calibration were possible by introducing spatial variability in permeability parameters and adjusting barrier properties, but that more detailed parameterizations had increased uncertainty due to the limited dataset. The preliminary model results indicate that the primary result of increased pumping from the mine pool would be reduced discharge from the mines to streams near the pumping wells. The intact barriers limit the spatial extent of mine dewatering. The model could be improved with additional groundwater-level and streamflow measurements. Use of transient simulations, calibrated with transient measurements, is suggested to provide an independent estimate of mine-pool storage capacity.

Suggested Citation:

Goode, D.J., Cravotta, C.A. III, Hornberger R.J., and Hewitt, M.A., 2010, Simulation of water-resources development of flooded coal mines in the Western Middle Anthracite Field, Pennsylvania : (abs.) in Proc. 2010 AWRA Annual Water Resources Conference: American Water Resources Assoc., available online at /projects/groundwater/westernmiddle/AWRA2010_abstract.pdf.

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