TU and KCWA partnered with the Department of Energy's National Energy Technology Lab in Pittsburgh, PA to conduct an airborne remote sensing survey of the abandoned mine drainage in lower Kettle Creek watershed. This study uses infrared and geophysical instruments to gather data on the location of abandoned mine drainage. The data collected provides useful information for selecting and prioritizing mine drainage treatment alternatives.
The thermal infrared component of the survey uses heat or infrared radiation to locate groundwater seeps. This works on the principle that when the ground is frozen, groundwater will be relatively warmer and thus shows up as a hot spot on the imagery. Although it cannot determine if the water is clean or polluted, it is a valuable tool in that it can help to locate the diffuse and often remote abandoned mine drainage seeps. This portion of the study was conducted via airplane in late March 2002 and an intensive groundtruthing effort was completed later in June 2002.
The geophysics portion of the project uses an array of instruments (flown over via helicopter) that take advantage of the physical characteristics of abandoned mine drainage (i.e. electrical conductivity). Collected data will show where the abandoned mine drainage is flowing and most importantly, the locations of deep mine pools. With this technology, mine pools can be located up to 300 feet underground. This information is particularly valuable because mine maps are not available for much of the study area.
TU and KCWA are thrilled that the Kettle Creek watershed is the site for this airborne remote sensing study. It is the first time that this cutting-edge technology has been used on such a large area (50 square miles). In addition, the possibilities for applying this technology to other environmental concerns reach far beyond abandoned mine drainage studies. Funding has been made possible by the Growing Greener Program and the Army Corps of Engineers.