Ground Water Effects

Peng, Syd S. ; Centofanti, K. ; Luo, Yi ; Ma, W. M. ; Su, Daniel W. H. ; Zhong, W. L.
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Pages: 12
Publication Date: Jan 1, 1992
10.1 I~RODUC1'ION In order to understand the effects of surface subsidence due to underground mining on the ground water hydrology, a brief introduction to the rate, direction, and general pattern of ground water movement in aquifers is necessary. Ground water movement in an aquifer is controlled by aquifer lithology, structure, permeability, water levels, topographic set¬ting, and pumping patterns (Sgambat et al., 1980). Fig. 10.1 shows an idealized flow pattern of ground water in a hilly terrain (Coe and Stowe, 1984). The hill is made up of a series of interbedded permeable aquifers (mostly sandstone) and confining units (mostly shale). Since sandstone is porous and permeable, ground water moves through it downward and laterally until it reaches the interbeddings of the confining unit immediately below. The ground water then moves laterally along the interbeddings, be¬cause the confining unit is less permeable, and comes out as springs on the surface at the intersection of the aquifer and the confining unit. If there is a ground water table in each aquifer, it is a perched water table (e.g., right side of Fig 10.1). On the other hand, if the ground water recharge is larger than can be drained out, the interbedded permeable aquifers and confining units will be filled with water and a ground water table will exist only at the uppermost permeable aquifer. This is the semi-perched water table (e.g., left side of Fig. 10.1). There are three ground water flow systems: shallow, interme¬diate, and deep. Shallow flow systems occur near the land surface and the surface drainage system. The flow depth ranges from a few to several hundreds of feet with a resident time of a few weeks to a few years after entry, depending on the permeability of the rock strata. In a shallow flow system, the drainage coincides with sur¬face run-off water divides. Intermediate flow systems occur in minor hills some distance away from surface drainage. The travel distance ranges from several hundreds to several thousands of feet, the travel time from several months to tens of years. These systems are less dependent on seasonal recharge or discharge. In deep flow systems, the ground water travels from thousands of feet to miles, and transfers between surface basins. The travel time ranges from several tens to several hundreds of years. The systems generally receive recharge over a large area on major mountains and dis¬charge into major stream systems. 10.2 CASE STUDIES There are two ways of monitoring water wells for studying the effects of dewatering due to underground mining, i.e., water level and piezometric level. The water level is the water elevation in a water well that has penetrated two or more aquifers. Thus it indi¬cates the combined flow of all the aquifers that the water well intersects during the time of measurement. The piezometric level is the level to which water rises in a piezometer cased to a specific aquifer, and coincides with the pressure level of water in that aquifer. Therefore piezometric level reflects the water condition in that particular aquifer to which it is confined, while the water level represents the total yield of a water well without regard to the source of water. For instance, if a water well intersects two aqui¬fers, and if the lower aquifer is affected by undermining and goes dry while the upper aquifer does not, the water level in the well will drop, but may never go dry. Under this condition, the data obtained by monitoring the water level do not indicate the true behavior of the individual aquifers, especially if they are located at widely separated heights. 10.2.1 WATER LEVEL EFFECTS The effects of underground mining on ground water flow have been the subject of many investigations (Booth, 1984; Coe and Stowe, 1984; Owili-Eger, 1983; Rauch et al., 1984). However, the problems are very complicated, as have been exemplified by the conflicting conclusions reached by various investigators in var¬ious case studies. The most dramatic examples were described by Coe and Stowe (1984). In the first case (Fig. 10.2), the coal seam was 5 ft thick with cover from 400 to 800 ft deep. The majority of water supplies came from a sandstone aquifer in most ridge tops. When the face of the Panel No. 3 passed under it, dug well WW-1, which was approximately 670 ft above the coal, went dry, while the water level in Borehole B- 1, which was located at the center of Panel No. 4 with the bottom reaching the coal seam, also dropped about 160 ft. In Panel No. 5, the developed spring DS-2, which originated from the surface of the sandstone/shale contact and was approximately 750 ft above the coal seam, stopped when the face passed under it. The water level in the dug well W-2, which was dug into the shale about 700 ft above the coal seam dropped about 22 ft, but the well did not go dry. Therefore, nearly every spring or well located above or near the active panels was affected by longwall mining. In the second mine (Fig. 10.3), the seam was 5 ft thick with cover from 200 to 400 ft thick. Dug well DW-2, the bottom of which was 35 ft deep and approximately 330 ft above the coal seam in a perched sandstone aquifer, went dry right after the longwall passed under it. Drilled well W-3, in the sandstone aquifer, about 220 ft above the coal seam, experienced a 75-ft drop in water level when the face was under it, but showed some re¬covery after the face had passed under it. Ponds P- I and P-2 were developed in shale bedrock and were spring fed. They were not affected by longwall mining. Pond P-3 was developed in the sand¬stone aquifer, and its water table showed some decline when the face passed under it. Spring ST-1, which originated from Pond P-1 and was fed from several tributary valleys, was affected by longwall mining, probably because it passed across the panel edges where tension cracks drained off the water. Although the overbur¬den in case 2 was about half of that in case 1, the majority of water resources were not affected by longwall mining. Coe and Stowe (1984) attributed this discrepancy to: (1) a higher percentage of clays, shales, and claystones, resulting in a lesser degree of inter¬connected fracturing, and (2) a less rugged topography resulting in a less localized ground water flow system. Therefore, in order to assess the effects of underground mining, the premining ground water flow patterns, topographical, lithological, and meterological conditions must be known. Booth (1984) also monitored the ground water effects of a longwall mine (Fig. 10.4) in a seam 5 ft thick and 300 to 800 ft deep. There were three major aquifers: Morgantown sandstone approximately 30 ft thick and 630 ft above the coal; Saltsburg sandstone of up to 50 ft in thickness and 520 ft above the coal; and
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