2004 Progress Report: An Improved Method for Establishing Water Quality Criteria for Mining Impacted Streams

EPA Grant Number: R829515C013
Subproject: this is subproject number 013 , established and managed by the Center Director under grant R829515
(EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).

Center: HSRC - Rocky Mountain Regional Hazardous Substance Research Center for Remediation of Mine Waste Sites
Center Director: Shackelford, Charles D.
Title: An Improved Method for Establishing Water Quality Criteria for Mining Impacted Streams
Investigators: Ranville, James , Ross, Phillipe , Cohen, Ron , Wildeman, Thomas
Institution: Colorado School of Mines
EPA Project Officer: Lasat, Mitch
Project Period: October 1, 2003 through September 30, 2006
Project Period Covered by this Report: October 1, 2003 through September 30, 2004
RFA: Hazardous Substance Research Centers - HSRC (2001) Recipients Lists
Research Category: Hazardous Waste/Remediation , Land and Waste Management


The overall objective of this research project is to improve our ability to evaluate the environmental impact of mining wastes on aquatic ecosystems. This approach is based on furthering our understanding of the factors affecting metal bioavailability. The practical outcomes of this research project are:

  1. an improved means of setting water quality criteria for mining-impacted streams;
  2. and a rapid screening tool that can be applied in the field to evaluate the potential environmental impact of mine wastes.

The research project has four specific objectives:

  1. evaluation of the existing Biotic Ligand Model (BLM) for mining-impacted waters;
  2. improvement of the BLM by examining the influence on metal toxicity of the unique nature of mining-impacted waters with respect to the hardness cations;
  3. further development of the BLM to include mixed metals (Cu and Zn);
  4. and development of a microbial bioassay to rapidly screen mine wastes to assess their toxicity potential.

Progress Summary:

The BLM, used for toxicity predictions, has been uploaded onto PCs and tested for functionality. Preliminary uses of the BLM have included: determining experimental conditions for the toxicity experiments to be performed with Ceriodaphnia dubia; evaluation of a multi-investigator Clear Creek toxicity study performed with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) in August 2003; and an evaluation of the relationship between geology and aquatic toxicity, which is part of a Colorado School of Mines-USGS collaboration on geoenvironmental models. Extensive sampling of Clear Creek waters and mines wastes located within the watershed has been performed. These samples have been used for BLM modeling and evaluation of a microbial enzyme bioassay, and they will be used for future experiments with metal mixtures. Toxicity experiments with single metals (Cu, Zn, Ni, and Cd) have been performed using C. dubia. These experiments have produced LC50 values for each metal under site conditions. These values will be used to establish the conditions for a series of experiments to be performed with binary metal mixtures. Two commercially available microbial enzyme bioassays have been applied to a series of Clear Creek water samples and deionized water leachates of mine wastes. The results have been compared to standard toxicity tests. These enzyme bioassays are being examined for use as a possible field screening method for assessing mining wastes.

Future Activities:

We will devote Year 2 of the project to toxicity measurements of metal mixtures, further development of the microbial enzyme bioassays, and refinement of the BLM for mining-influenced waters.

Publications/Presentations: See the list of publications/presentations included in the 2004 Annual Report Summary for R829515, which is the overall report for the Rocky Mountain Regional Hazardous Substance Research Center.

Supplemental Keywords:

Technical Outreach Services for Communities, TOSC, Technical Assistance to Brownfields, TAB, groundwater, industry sectors, waste, water, ecological risk assessment, ecology, ecosystems, ecology and ecosystems, environmental chemistry, environmental engineering, geology, geochemistry, toxicology, microbiology, hazardous, hazardous waste, mining-NAIC 21, selenium, acid mine drainage, acid mine runoff, aquatic ecosystems, arsenic, contaminant transport, contaminated sediments, contaminated marine sediment, contaminated waste sites, contaminated sites, contaminated soil, field monitoring, mining-impacted runoff, sediment transport, stream ecosystems, suspended sediment, sediments, mining, remediation, metal mobility, subsurface, extraction of metals, heavy metals, leaching of toxic metals, metal release, metal wastes, metals, metals-contaminated soil, mining wastes, remediation technologies, risk assessment,, RFA, Industry Sectors, Scientific Discipline, INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION, ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT, Waste, Water, TREATMENT/CONTROL, INDUSTRY, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, POLLUTANTS/TOXICS, Ground Water, Waste Treatment, Remediation, Ecosystem/Assessment/Indicators, Ecosystem Protection, Mining - NAIC 21, Chemicals, Restoration, Hazardous Waste, Industrial Processes, Ecology and Ecosystems, Ecological Risk Assessment, Environmental Engineering, Groundwater remediation, Hazardous, Aquatic Ecosystem Restoration, Ecological Indicators, Risk Assessment, hydrogeology, monitoring, stakeholder groups, aquatic ecosystem, contaminant transport, contaminated waste sites, streams, community involvement, contaminated sites, acid mine drainage, bioavailability, remediation technologies, metal release, restoration strategies, geochemistry, mining, rivers, treatment, water quality criteria, ecological recovery, leaching of toxic metals, aquatic ecosystems, contaminated groundwater, water quality, acid mine discharge, environmental rehabilitation, heavy metal contamination, contaminated aquifers, ecological impact, extraction of metals, metal wastes, Biotic Ligand Model, heavy metals, metals, mining wastes, stream ecosystem, groundwater pollution

Relevant Websites:


Progress and Final Reports:

Original Abstract
  • 2005 Progress Report
  • Final

  • Main Center Abstract and Reports:

    R829515    HSRC - Rocky Mountain Regional Hazardous Substance Research Center for Remediation of Mine Waste Sites

    Subprojects under this Center: (EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).
    R829515C001 Redox Transformations, Complexation and Soil/Sediment Interactions of Inorganic Forms of As and Se in Aquatic Environments: Effects of Natural Organic Matter
    R829515C002 Fate and Transport of Metals and Sediment in Surface Water
    R829515C003 Metal Removal Capabilities of Passive Bioreactor Systems: Effects of Organic Matter and Microbial Population Dynamics
    R829515C004 Evaluating Recovery of Stream Ecosystems from Mining Pollution: Integrating Biochemical, Population, Community and Ecosystem Indicators
    R829515C005 Rocky Mountain Regional Hazardous Substance Research Center Training and Technology Transfer Program
    R829515C006 Technical Outreach Services for Communities and Technical Assistance to Brownfields
    R829515C007 Evaluation of Hydrologic Models for Alternative Covers at Mine Waste Sites
    R829515C008 Microbial Reduction of Uranium in Mine Leachate by Fermentative and Iron-Reducing Bacteria
    R829515C009 Development and Characterization of Microbial Inocula for High-Performance Passive Treatment of Acid Mine Drainage
    R829515C010 Reactive Transport Modeling of Metal Removal From Anaerobic Biozones
    R829515C011 Assessment of Electrokinetic Injection of Amendments for Remediation of Acid Mine Drainage
    R829515C012 Metal Toxicity Thresholds for Important Reclamation Plant Species of the Rocky Mountains
    R829515C013 An Improved Method for Establishing Water Quality Criteria for Mining Impacted Streams