Superfund Research Program
Remediating Mine Waste Products
Project Leader: Martha H. Conklin
Grant Number: P42ES004940
Funding Period: 2000 - 2005
- Project Summary
Regions in the Western United States are pock marked by abandoned mining claims; research in this project identifies pathways to and quantifies interactions of metals in perennial and intermittent streams. The investigators have used lead isotope ratios as a forensic tool to directly link an abandoned mill site near Klondyke, AZ to elevated lead levels in fish in the Aravaipa Wilderness Area. The data suggest that air-borne transport is the dominant process for off-site movement of metal contaminants. Field research with agarose gel samplers demonstrated that profiles of metals in the sediments at Pinal Creek AZ could be measured inexpensively in a few hours and at higher spatial resolution than previously possible. Field and laboratory research of deposition of metals by biofilms (3-orders magnitude increase vs surrounding sediments) have confirmed the importance of biofilms in the removal of metals from contaminated streams. Understanding the links between metal deposition and biofilm formation may provide a simpler means of augmenting natural attenuation processes. These approaches for monitoring metals should be particularly effective in more remote mining-impacted sites.