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University of Arizona

Superfund Research Program

Sequestration Processes for Attenuation and Treatment of Arsenic and other Toxic Elements in Mine Waters

Project Leader: Mark L. Brusseau
Co-Investigators: James A. Field, Raina M. Maier, Jon Chorover
Grant Number: P42ES004940
Funding Period: 2000-2020
View this project in the NIH Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools (RePORT)

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Project Summary (2017-2020)

Surface-water and groundwater contamination from acid rock drainage is one of the primary environmental concerns for many metal-mining sites in the United States. Concomitantly, cost-effective treatment of mining-impacted waters to levels protective of human health and the environment is a critical issue for mitigating the risk associated with metal-mining sites.

The overall goals of this project are to investigate the key physical and biogeochemical processes that control migration and attenuation of mine-drainage contaminants in groundwater, and to develop and test innovative methods for remediation of contaminated groundwater at metal-mining sites. The project incorporates innovative methods to examine the biogeochemical processes that control contaminant behavior, with a focus on the unique properties and conditions inherent to mining sites in the Southwestern U.S.

This project targets the primary groundwater contaminants of concern at these sites, including arsenic, uranium, and sulfate. This project is advancing the state of the science regarding the transport and attenuation of metal(loids) in the subsurface. Insights from this project will improve the development and parameterization of advanced biogeochemical models, and enhance the accuracy of risk assessments.

The researchers anticipate that the project outcomes will improve the design and implementation of groundwater remediation efforts. Specifically, in situ biosequestration is one of the very few options that exist for remediation of the large, deep groundwater contaminant plumes that form at metal-mining sites in the Southwestern US. This method has great potential, but several critical questions exist as barriers to widespread acceptance and adoption. This project is working to answer these questions. The researchers anticipate that the application of project outcomes will produce significant cost savings for the clean-up of the nation's inventory of mine waste sites.

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