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Acid mine drainage has acidified large volumes of water and added high concentrations of dissolved heavy metals to West Squaw Creek, a California stream draining igneous rocks of low acid-neutralizing capacity. During mixing of the acid sulfate stream waters in the South Fork of West Squaw Creek with an almost equal volume of dilute uncontaminated water, Cu, Zn, Mn, and Al remained in solution rather than precipitating or adsorbing on solid phases. Changes in the concentration of these generally conservative metals could be used to determine relative flow volumes of acid tributaries and the main stream. An amorphous orange precipitate (probably ferric hydroxides or a mixture of ferric hydroxides and jarosite) was ubiquitous in the acid stream beds and was intimately associated with algae at the most acid sites. Relative sorption of cations decreased with decreasing water pH. However, arsenic was almost completely scavenged from solution within a short distance from the sulfide sources.
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Interaction of acid mine drainage with waters and sediments of West Squaw Creek in the West Shasta Mining District, California