Effects of surface mining on water quality in a small watershed, Sullivan County, Indiana

Open-File Report 81-543




The water quality in an unnamed tributary to Spencer Creek upstream and downstream from a surface mine and in South Lake adjacent to the mine were monitored during a 5-year study (1975-79) in the 1,210-acre watershed of the tributary. Compared with the background values, pH and concentrations of all major dissolved ions and dissolved, suspended, and streambed metals generally increased in Spencer Creek tributary downstream from the mine. Median dissolved-sodium and sulfate concentrations increased as much as eighteenfold and fourteenfold, respectively , and median dissolved-manganese and suspended aluminum concentrations increased as much as sevenfold and more than twofold. Concentrations of suspended metals decreased more than 50% after installation of sediment ponds by the mine operator. During high streamflow, concentrations of major ions at background and at mined sites on Spencer Creek tributary decreased, but dissolved- and suspended-metal concentrations increased downstream from the mine. South Lake exhibited seasonal stratification and mixing characteristics of other lakes at a similar latitude. However, the bottom 3 feet of the water column demonstrated persistent chemical stratification. Phytoplankton populations of the lake varied seasonally, and the population density patterns resembled those in other lakes at latitudes similar to that of South Lake. (USGS)

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Effects of surface mining on water quality in a small watershed, Sullivan County, Indiana
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Open-File Report
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U.S. Geological Survey,
vii, 66 p. :ill., maps ;28 cm.