Environmental Health - Toxic Substances Hydrology Program

Archive of All Science Features from the Watershed Contamination from Metal and Uranium Mining Investigation

Highlights of research findings.

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Freshwater snail -- Lymnaea stagnalis

Study Reveals Processes that Control Uranium Bioavailability in a Freshwater Snail—Relevance to Aquatic Biota in the Grand Canyon Area

Scientists refined an existing speciation model to identify key biogeochemical processes controlling dissolved uranium bioavailability to a freshwater snail. This information is important to advance current understanding and prediction of the ecological risk posed by uranium mining to freshwater ecosystems, including federally managed lands such as in the Grand Canyon area. ...

USGS scientists collecting soil samples at a mine

U.S. Geological Survey Develops Approach to Assess Baseline Chemical and Radiological Conditions Prior to Uranium Mining near Grand Canyon National Park

USGS scientists developed an approach and collected baseline data to quantitatively assess offsite migration of mine-related contaminants and to identify critical contaminant exposure pathways that could result from uranium mining activities in the Grand Canyon region. ...

USGS scientist collecting a water sample from a gravel bar on side of a river

Mineral Particles are a Source of Dietary Metal in Streams

USGS scientists find that copper is directly absorbed from mineral particles when aquatic organisms living on the bottom of streams eat their food. ...

View of a field that was a tailings site. Colorado River is on the upper right.

Improving Subsurface Uranium Cleanup Methods

Multiple reaction pathways for the chemical transformation of hexavalent uranium to more insoluble forms of tetravalent uranium documented in subsurface sediments ...

Pennsylvania Mine in the headwaters of Peru Creek, Colorado

Estimating the Uncertainty of Contaminant Loads in Mined Watersheds

USGS scientists have developed an improved approach to identify the major sources of contaminants to streams in watersheds impacted by acid mine drainage. ...

Diffusive Gradients in Thin Films (DGT) samplers deployed in High Ore Creek, Montana

New Approach for Evaluating Fish Metal Toxicity

New method to measure the rates at which inorganic nitrogen compounds, such as nitrate and nitrite, transform in groundwater developed ...

Influx of metal-rich groundwater from natural  springs (foreground) to Cement Creek, Colorado (background)

Evaluating Acid Mine Drainage Cleanup Strategies

A set of field and computer simulation tools developed by a team of USGS scientists were shown to be effective for evaluating strategies to reduce acid mine drainage in streams. ...

View of the Big Hole River in southwestern Montana with mountains in the background

Chemical Geology Highlights Importance of Diel Processes in Rivers and Lakes

USGS scientist and his colleague edited a special issue of Chemical Geology that highlights the latest work on understanding diel processes ...

View of Mineral Creek, Colorado, with tailings pile on the left and acidic mineral seep on right

Tools to Define Pre-Mining Water-Quality Restoration Targets

USGS scientists and their colleagues have developed a variety of tools to estimate the pre-mining water quality of streams in watersheds with a legacy of past mining activities ...

Abandoned mine site on Galena Creek, Montana - Barker mining district

Fish Exposed to Daily Cycles of Dissolved Metals Show Lower Mortality Rates

Fish exposed to daily changes in dissolved metals in mining-contaminated streams showed significantly lower mortality rates than fish exposed to constant concentrations ...

Greenish-brown slime on cobbles from a streambed

Biofilms in Streams Help Create Daily Variations in Metal Concentrations

USGS scientists and their colleagues have demonstrated that the large daily changes in zinc concentrations observed in mining-affected streams are in some cases caused by biofilms ...

Acid mine drainage from Cement Creek (left) mixes with Animas River, Colorado (right)

How Do Contaminants Mix at the Confluence of Streams

USGS scientists inject chemical tracers in streams to study how contaminants mix at the confluence of streams ...

Fisher Creek in the New World mining district, Montana, near Yellowstone National Park. Fisher Creek is the site of a study of how chemistry changes as water moves downstream

Importance and Causes of Daily Variation in Metal Concentrations in Streams

USGS scientists and their partners document the importance and causes of daily variation in metal concentrations in mountain streams ...

Mill tailings deposited on the flood plain of Basin Creek, Montana

Multidisciplinary Approach to Remediating Watersheds Contaminated from Abandoned Mine Lands

Multidisciplinary Approach to Remediating Watersheds Contaminated from Abandoned Mine Lands, USGS Abandoned Mine Lands Initiative ...

Diel Metals in Prickly Pear Creek (graph)

Daily Variation of Metals in Streams Can Confound Scientific Studies

USGS scientists have found that concentrations of some metals dissolved in stream waters fluctuate significantly on a daily cycle, Toxic Substances Hydrology Program ...

A view of Pinal Creek with a ridge in the background

Nature's Way of Cleaning Up Mining-Contaminated Streams

USGS Researchers Develop a Method to Assess the Natural Attenuation of Metals in Mining-Contaminated Streams ...

Continuous Water-Quality Sampling Site - North Fork of the Animas River, Colorado

Tracer Tests Steer Cleanup of Mined Watersheds

A stream tracer-injection technology that identifies and quantifies sources of contamination within watersheds (watersheds that may be affected by hundreds of potential contamination sites) was developed and demonstrated through the U.S. Geological Survey's Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) Initiative. ...

The Abandoned Silver Ledge Mine, Colorado

Cleaning up Contamination in Hard Rock Mine Lands

The USGS Abandoned Mine Lands Initiative is developing and demonstrating scientific knowledge and technologies that will assist Federal land management agencies to clean up contamination in areas near abandoned hardrock mines across the Nation. ...

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