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U.S. Geological Survey Toxic Substances Hydrology Program--Proceedings of the Technical Meeting Charleston South Carolina March 8-12,1999--Volume 1 of 3--Contamination From Hard-Rock Mining, Water-Resources Investigation Report 99-4018A

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Evaluation of the Recovery of Fish and Invertebrate Communities Following Reclamation of a Watershed Impacted by an Abandoned Coal Surface Mine

By James F. Fairchild, Barry C. Poulton, Thomas W. May, and Stuart M. Miller

This report is available in pdf format: pdf Fairchild.pdf 116KB


A 5-yr study was conducted to measure the rates of recovery of fish and invertebrate communities following reclamation of a watershed impacted by an abandoned coal surface mine in Southwest Missouri. Quarterly monitoring of water quality information (pH, conductivity, and alkalinity) was conducted at 10 sites. Annual monitoring of biological (benthic invertebrate and fish community structure), physical (substrate grain size), and chemical (metals, pH, conductivity, and alkalinity) variables was conducted at 5 of the 10 sites. Prior to the reclamation effort the stream was nearly devoid of aquatic life above Hwy 2 for a distance of approximately 2 miles due to extremely low pH (<3) and elevated levels of calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, aluminum, copper, strontium, boron, and cobalt. State water quality standards for zinc, copper, and cadmium were exceeded. Fish were present at reference sites (largemouth bass, white crappie, bluegill, minnows, and darters) but were absent at sites impacted by acid mine drainage within the project boundaries. Benthic invertebrates were similarly impacted. Reclamation activities were initiated late in 1991 and continued through 1995. Significant recovery of water quality, fish, and invertebrate communities were observed following the reclamation. Both chemical and biological approaches were useful in monitoring the recovery of the aquatic system following the watershed reclamation.

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