The authors determine the composition of a river that is impacted by acid-mine drainage, evaluate dominant physical and geochemical processes controlling the composition, and assess dissolved metal speciation and toxicity using a combination of laboratory, field and modeling studies. Values of pH increase from 3.3 to 7.6 and the sum of dissolved base metal (Cd + Co + Cu + Ni + Pb + Zn) concentrations decreases from 6270 to 100 ??g/L in the dynamic mixing and reaction zone that is downstream of the river's confluence with acid-mine drainage. Mixing diagrams and PHREEQC calculations indicate that mixing and dilution affect the concentrations of all dissolved elements in the reach, and are the dominant processes controlling dissolved Ca, K, Li, Mn and SO4 concentrations. Additionally, dissolved Al and Fe concentrations decrease due to mineral precipitation (gibbsite, schwertmannite and ferrihydrite), whereas dissolved concentrations of Cd, Co, Cu, Ni, Pb and Zn decrease due to adsorption onto newly formed Fe precipitates. The uptake of dissolved metals by aquatic organisms is dependent on the aqueous speciation of the metals and kinetics of complexation reactions between metals, ligands and solid surfaces. Dissolved speciation of Cd, Cu, Ni and Zn in the mixing and reaction zone is assessed using the diffusive gradients in thin films (DGT) technique and results of speciation calculations using the Biotic Ligand Model (BLM). Data from open and restricted pore DGT units indicate that almost all dissolved metal species are inorganic and that aqueous labile or DGT available metal concentrations are generally equal to total dissolved concentrations in the mixing zone. Exceptions occur when labile metal concentrations are underestimated due to competition between H+ and metal ions for Chelex-100 binding sites in the DGT units at low pH values. Calculations using the BLM indicate that dissolved Cd and Zn species in the mixing and reaction zone are predominantly inorganic, which is consistent with the DGT results. Although the DGT method indicates that the majority of aqueous Cu species are inorganic, BLM calculations indicate that dissolved Cu is inorganic at pH < 5.5 and organic at pH > 5.5. Integrated dissolved labile concentrations of Cd, Cu and Zn in the mixing and reaction zone are compared to calculated acute toxicity concentrations (LC50 values) for fathead minnows (Pimephales promelas) (Cd, Cu and Zn) and water fleas (Ceriodaphnia dubia) (Cd and Cu) using the BLM, and to national recommended water quality criteria [i.e., criteria maximum concentration (CMC) and criterion continuous concentration (CCC)]. Observed labile concentrations of Cd and Zn are below LC50 values and CMC for Cd, but above CCC and CMC for Zn at sites <30 m downstream of the confluence. In contrast, labile Cu concentrations exceed LC50 values for the organisms as well as CCC and CMC at sites <30 m downstream of the confluence. These results suggest that environmental conditions at sites closest to the confluence of the river and acid-mine drainage should not support healthy aquatic organisms. ?? 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Additional publication details
Assessing the concentration, speciation, and toxicity of dissolved metals during mixing of acid-mine drainage and ambient river water downstream of the Elizabeth Copper Mine, Vermont, USA