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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

January 1, 2007

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 μg/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.