Recreational Use of Acidic Pit Lakes—Human Health Considerations for Post Closure Planning


Pit lakes may form in mining voids that extend below groundwater level after mining ceases and many have been found to have elevated metals concentrations and low pH through acidic and metalliferous drainage (AMD). Pit lakes are often used for recreational activities including swimming, fishing and boating and poor water quality may present health risks to recreational users. Pit lakes also provide the opportunity for additional water resource uses. The Collie Coal Basin in south-western Australia currently has a number of pit lakes with moderate AMD effects which are also used for recreational pursuits. Twelve hundred questionnaires were mailed to selected addresses in the Collie shire with an additional 170 questionnaires to specific interest groups. Participants were asked about the type of activity, frequency and duration and any health symptoms experienced after use of the lakes. Two hundred and fifty questionnaires were returned, which comprised 176 returns from the random sample and 74 from the targeted sample. Three pit lakes with elevated metals concentrations and low pH were used for recreational purposes by 62% of respondents. This was mostly in summer with swimming the most common activity. Of all respondents 52% were concerned about lake water quality and 38% using the lakes reported a variety of symptoms. Recreational use of Collie pit lakes did not represent a health risk for most of the surveyed population due to the low frequency and duration of use, however health risks may be elevated in sensitive users such as children and those consuming seafood from the lakes. Comprehensive water quality monitoring for chemicals and further characterisation of recreational use of pit lakes is warranted to more comprehensively assess the potential health risks to recreational users. Post closure mine plans need to consider potential future community uses combined with assessments of water quality and physical characteristics to reduce the potential for adverse health and safety impacts.

Share and Cite:

Hinwood, A. , Heyworth, J. , Tanner, H. and McCullough, C. (2012) Recreational Use of Acidic Pit Lakes—Human Health Considerations for Post Closure Planning. Journal of Water Resource and Protection, 4, 1061-1070. doi: 10.4236/jwarp.2012.412122.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] H. Klapper and W. Geller, “Water Quality Management of Mining Lakes—A New Field of Applied Hydrobiology,” Acta Hydrochimica et Hydrobiologica, Vol. 29, No. 6-7, 2002, pp. 363-374. doi:10.1002/1521-401X(200112)29:6/7<363::AID-AHEH363>3.0.CO;2-E
[2] J. Crusius, R. Pieters, A. Leung, P. Whittle, G. Pedersen, G. Lawrence and J. J. McNee, “Tale of Two Pit Lakes: Initial Results of a Three Year Study of the Main Zone and Waterline Pit Lakes near Houston, British Columbia, Canada,” Mining Engineering, Vol. 55, No. 2, 2003, pp. 43-48.
[3] K. A. Filippova and V. V. Deryagin, “Chemical Hydrology of Mine Pit Lakes of the Bakala Geotechnic System (Southern Urals),” Water Resources, Vol. 32, No. 4, 2005, pp. 427-433. doi:10.1007/s11268-005-0054-8
[4] C. D. McCullough, “Mine Pit Lakes: Closure and Management,” Australian Centre for Geomechanics (ACG), Perth, 2011, 183 p.
[5] J. M. Castro and J. N. Moore, “Pit Lakes: Their Characteristics and the Potential for Their Remediation,” Environmental Geology, Vol. 39, No. 11, 2000, pp. 1254-1260. doi:10.1007/s002549900100
[6] G. E. Miller, W. B. Lyons and A. Davis, “Understanding the Water Quality of Pit Lakes,” Environmental Science and Technology, Vol. 30, No. 3, 1996, pp. 118A-123A. doi:10.1021/es9621354
[7] R. G. Doupe and A. J. Lymbery, “Environmental Risks Associated with Beneficial End Uses of Mine Lakes in Southwestern Australia,” Mine Water and the Environment, Vol. 24, No. 3, 2005, pp. 134-138. doi:10.1007/s10230-005-0084-0
[8] G. A. Doyle and D. D. Runnells, “Physical Limnology of Existing Mine Pit Lakes,” Minerals Engineering, Vol. 49, No. 12, 1997, pp. 76-80.
[9] S. L. Johnson and A. H. Wright, “Mine Void Water Resource Issues in Western Australia,” Water and Rivers Commission, 2003, 93 p.
[10] C. D. McCullough and M. A. Lund, “Opportunities for Sustainable Mining Pit Lakes in Australia,” Mine Water and the Environment, Vol. 25, No. 4, 2006, pp. 220-226. doi:10.1007/s10230-006-0136-0
[11] World Health Organisation, “Guidelines for Safe Recreational Water Environments: Volume 1 Coastal and Freshwaters,” Wold Health Organization, Geneva, 2003.
[12] B, Nixdorf, A. Fyson and H. Krumbeck, “Review: Plant Life in Extremely Acidic Waters,” Environmental and Experimental Botany, Vol. 46, No. 3, 2001, pp. 203-211. doi:10.1016/S0098-8472(01)00104-6
[13] National Health and Medical Research Council, “Guidelines for Managing Risks in Recreational Water,” National Health and Medical Reseach Council, Australian Government, Canberra, 2008.
[14] S. Dorevitch, N. J. Ashbolt, C. M. Ferguson, R. Fujioka, C. D. McGee, J. A. Soller and R. L. Whitman, “Meeting Report: Knowledge and Gaps in Developing Microbial Criteria for Inland Recreational Waters,” Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 118, No. 6, 2010, pp. 871-876. doi:10.1289/ehp.0901627
[15] T. J. Wade, R. L. Calderon, E. Sams, M. Beach, K. P. Brenner, A. H. Williams and A. P. Dufour, “Rapidly Measured Indicators of Recreational Water Quality Are Predictive of Swimming-Associated Gastrointestinal Illness,” Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 114, No. 1, 2006, pp. 24-28. doi:10.1289/ehp.8273
[16] F. M. Schets, J. F. Schijven and A. M. de R. Husman, “Exposure Assessment for Swimmers in Bathing Waters and Swimming Pools,” Water Research, Vol. 45, No. 7, 2008, pp. 2392-2400. doi:10.1016/j.watres.2011.01.025
[17] C. D. McCullough, M. A. Lund and L. Y. L. Zhao, “Mine Voids Management Strategy (I): Pit Lake Resources of the Collie Basin,” Department of Water Project Report MiWER/Centre for Ecosystem Management Report, Edith Cowan University, Perth, 2010, 250 p.
[18] M. A. Lund and C. D. McCullough, “Limnology and Ecology of Low Sulphate, Poorly-Buffered, Acidic Coal Pit Lakes in Collie, Western Australia,” Proceedings of the 10th International Mine Water Association, Congress, Karlovy Vary, 2008.
[19] M. A. Lund, D. Bills, T. Keneally, S. Brown and S. Thompson, “Bacterial Strategies for Increasing pH in Acidic Voids,” Final Void Water Quality Enhancement: Stage III, ACARP Project Number C8031 Report, Perth, 2000, pp. 169-222.
[20] C. Stedman, “100 Years of Collie Coal,” Curtin Printing Services, Perth, 1988.
[21] S. Varma, “Hydrogeology and Groundwater Resources of the Collie Basin, Western Australia,” Hydrogeological Record Series HG 5, Water and Rivers Commission, Perth, 2002, 80 p.
[22] Australian Bureau of Statistics, “National Regional Profile: Collie (S) (Local Government Area),” 2009.
[23] NHMRC/NRMMC, “Australian Drinking Water Guidelines 6,” National Health and Medical Reseach Council, 2004.
[24] ANZECC/ARMCANZ, “Australian and New Zealand Guidelines for Fresh and Marine Water Quality,” Vol. 1, Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council and Agriculture and Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand, Canberra, 2000.
[25] J. W. Fluhr, R. Darlenski, I. Angelova-Fischer, N. Tsankov and D. Basketter, “Skin irritation and Sensitization: Mechanisms and New Approaches for Risk Assessment,” Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, Vol. 21, No. 3, 2008, pp. 124-135. doi:10.1159/000131077
[26] R. P. Mason, J. Laporte and S. Andres, “Factors Controlling the Bioaccumulation of Mercury, Methylmercury, Arsenic, Selenium, and Cadmium by Freshwater Invertebrates and Fish,” Archives Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, Vol. 38, No. 3, 2000, pp. 283-297. doi:10.1007/s002449910038

Copyright © 2024 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.