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20 May 2011
New technology helping to clean-up water from former coal mines, promote public safety and safeguard local communities has won a major Cardiff University award for innovation.
The winning project – part of the University’s annual Innovation Awards - saw environmental engineering experts from the University’s School of Engineering join forces with The UK Coal Authority to develop new treatment technologies which helps remove impurities from the water of former coal mines and help address public health challenges.
Dr Devin Sapsford, School of Engineering, who leads the work said: "Many of South Wales’ former mining areas continue to suffer from impoverished rivers due to mine water pollution.
"The high levels of iron and other metals are potentially damaging to the health and landscape of these communities. The project allowed us to design and create new and more effective ways of treating and improving the quality of this water.
"By working directly in these communities we were able to design, construct and pilot new treatment plants to improve water quality at former coal sites."
The project saw University academics work alongside experts from the Coal Authority at former UK coal mines, including Six Bells colliery in Abertillery in the heart of the South Wales coalfield.
The project led to the creation of a novel Vertical Flow Reactor (VFR), demonstrated the application of carbon dioxide stripping technology for mine water treatment, and produced new engineering guidelines for the design of conventional and non-conventional mine water treatment systems for industry.
Current and future work is focussing on development of novel low cost technologies for removing toxic metals such as zinc, cadmium and lead from mine water.
Dr Ian Watson from The Coal Authority said: "The Coal Authority is responsible for environmental protection related to abandoned coal mines – specifically the treatment of mine water pollution.
"Working alongside experts from Cardiff University we have been able to gain a greater understanding and create new mine water treatment technologies, which improves water quality and promotes public safety in these areas."
The Coal Authority is a UK body responsible for remediating existing discharges and preventing new discharges from coal mine workings. In total, they prevent some 6000 kilograms of iron per day discharging into the nation’s water courses and improve 100’s of kilometers of rivers.
It is anticipated that the work between Cardiff University and the Coal Authority can be rolled-out and used across to other former mining sites across the UK transferring the R&D knowledge into a spectrum of local companies from civil engineering firms to landscape architects.
Dr Devin Sapsford added: "Many existing mine water treatment schemes have been built where the mine water is the easiest to treat. This means that many mine water discharges in areas that are difficult to access or where treatment area is restricted have so far remained untreated.
"By creating these new water treatment technologies we hope to improve water quality and provide an impetus for regeneration in surrounding areas."
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