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Environmental Health - Toxic Substances

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U.S. Geological Survey Toxic Substances Hydrology Program--Proceedings of the Technical Meeting, Colorado Springs, Colorado, September 20-24, 1993, Water-Resources Investigations Report 94-4015

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Difficulties with Intermediate-Scale Experiments for Studies of Iron Chemistry in Streams Affected by Acidic Mine Drainage

by

Diane M. McKnight (U.S. Geological Survey, Boulder, Colo.), Kenneth E. Bencala (U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, Calif.), Richard A. Harnish (U.S. Geological Survey, Boulder, Colo.), and Robert L. Runkel (U.S. Geological Survey, Boulder, Colo.)

Abstract

Iron chemistry in streams affected by acidic mine drainage is driven by many dynamic processes, such as precipitation, dissolution, photoreduction of ferric iron and microbial oxidation of ferrous iron. These processes can be studied with a variety of approaches, ranging from controlled laboratory experiments to field, stream-scale perturbation experiments. Experiments that are intermediate between laboratory and field experiments using sediments and water from the Snake River have been conducted. These experiments have been useful in demonstrating the general nature of iron biogeochemistry. However, difficulties reproducing results occur both within and among experiments. The heterogeneous nature of the stream sediments and seasonal variations in trace phases of iron oxides confound interpretation of the results and limit the predictive value of such experiments.

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