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Environmental Health - Toxic Substances


Hardrock Mining in Rocky Mountain Terrain -- Upper Arkansas River, Colorado [Completed]

Three sample bottles in front of a news paper box.
Ultrafiltration allows the study of metals transported by colloids in streams affected by mine drainage. The photo shows a raw sample from California Gulch, near Leadville, Colo. (left), the clear ultrafiltrate (center), and the concentrate of colloids for analysis (right). Without ultrafiltration scientists would not be able to collect enough sample to analyze.

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Mined watersheds in the Rocky Mountains are characterized by high altitudes, significant runoff and numerous contaminant sources dispersed through the watershed. Research on hardrock mining contamination in Rocky Mountain terrain is focused in the Arkansas River Basin. Acid mine drainage containing metals enter streams via runoff from mine wastes and tailings and ground-water pathways. The metals and acidic conditions are toxic to aquatic life. Scientists have studied contaminant source mechanisms, transport and transformation in streams, and how to use this knowledge to determine effective remedial strategies.

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