Ironstone mine spoil leaves a legacy of land contamination and diffuse water pollution with acidic, metal-rich drainage. Reclamation for woodland may exacerbate water pollution due to spoil amendment and disturbance. Constructed wetland systems (CWS) are increasingly used for treating acid mine drainage but their performance is poorly understood. A combined approach was used to reclaim the Benhar ironstone spoil heap in Central Scotland. Trees have been planted in spoil treated with dried pelleted sewage sludge, limestone and peat. Spoil drainage (pH 2.7, 247 mg l−1 total Fe) passes through a CWS. Spoil throughflow, surface water chemistry and CWS performance were monitored for 12 months after reclamation. Acidity, Fe, Mn and Al concentrations declined in throughflow after reclamation, although this effect was not uniform. Soluble reactive P has been mobilised from the sewage sludge in residual areas of spoil acidity, but losses of other nutrients were short-lived. The CWS removes on average 33 % and 20–40% of acidity and metal inputs but removal rates decrease in winter. Spoil reclamation has been successful in enabling vegetation establishment but has also increased Fe and Mn concentration in surface drainage from the site, even after passage through the CWS.

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