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The U.S. Geological Survey installed a streamgage at an abandoned copper mine this spring.

The Elizabeth Mine in Strafford, Vermont, was added to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund Program’s National Priority List in 2001. USGS and EPA have been cooperatively investigating the extent of the site’s heavy metal contamination since becoming a Superfund site.

The streamgage and precipitation gage installed in May will help determine the water inputs and outputs of a passive treatment system (PTS) constructed in 2019. This hands-off water treatment system lowers iron concentrations in the water outflow coming from the mine’s tailings dam and pile, where the byproducts of the mining operation were stored. The PTS treats this effluent before discharging it into the Cooperas Brook and the West Branch Ompompanoosuc River. 

Determining the amount of water entering the PTS through rainfall and measuring its’ streamflow will allow USGS scientists to better understand the site’s water quality. USGS hydrologists from the New England Water Science Center will assist Rob Runkel of the Colorado Water Science Center in calculating the travel time of water throughout the PTS to determine how long water stays within each pond of the PTS. Data will be collected from the streamgage and precipitation gage through October 2024. 

A streamgage in a field with a fence inthe background.


Two men in neon shirts standing next to a streamgage and precipitation gage.

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