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.
Hinwood, A. L., Heyworth, J., Tanner, H., & 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