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How does limestone affect the environment?

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Quick Answer

While limestone itself doesn't affect the environment, limestone mining can have a negative impact. On the other hand, the environment can affect limestone by breaking it down.

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Full Answer

Limestone mining can pollute water and create sinkholes. When limestone dissolves while it's still in the ground, caves and gullies form, a natural phenomenon known as karst. Although this doesn't hurt the environment in its natural form, once the limestone is mined out, sinkholes can form and disrupt underground waterways. This changes the natural water table. The actual mining process also changes existing waterways, adding additional water to streams and other bodies of water that not only floods the surrounding area, but adds pollutants to it as well. At the same time, it draws water from other features such as lakes and ponds.

Limestone can be damaged by the environment through weather and water erosion. The stone absorbs water that can cause it to deteriorate over time. If the water has a high acidity content, the damage is more immediate. Wind can wear away stone detailing. Limestone is also prone to discoloration by exposure to oil, dyes or even organic material, such as bird droppings or decomposing plant matter. It can even get rust stains if exposed to oxidizing iron.

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