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Because conventional treatment of acid-mine drainage (AMD) involves installation and maintenance of water treatment plants, regulators and mine operators have sought lower cost and lower maintenance technologies. One ecological engineering technology that has received increasing research attention is the use of natural and constructed wetlands for remediation of some of the water-quality problems associated with AMD. As surface water flows through a wetland, several processes can occur to decrease the elevated concentrations of sulfate, trace metals, arsenic, and hydrogen ions that characterize AMD. These processes range from precipitation of mineral phases to the active uptake of solutes by vegetation. The relative importance of these processes between different wetlands depends on the hydrologic and geochemical characteristics of the wetlands.

This paper describes the geochemistry of the processes that contribute to AMD attenuation in wetlands and presents some of the case studies that have identified these processes. The attenuation of AMD in wetlands has been studied in natural and in man- made (constructed) wetlands. In this paper, case studies of both are presented. A discussion of some of the general characteristics of wetlands is followed by more detailed discussions of the processes and geochemistry that contribute to the treatment of AMD in wetlands, relevant case studies, and a brief discussion of constructed wetland design. The physical, chemical, and hydrologic characteristics of a wetland that affect its potential for supporting specific types of reactions are also emphasized.

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