Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

1 in 5 streams damaged by mine pollution in southern West Virginia

31.07.2012
Water pollution from surface coal mining has degraded more than 22 percent of streams and rivers in southern West Virginia to the point they may now qualify as impaired under state criteria, according to a new study by scientists at Duke and Baylor.

The study, published this week in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science & Technology, documents substantial losses in aquatic insect biodiversity and increases in salinity linked to sulfates and other pollutants in runoff from mines often located miles upstream.

"Our findings offer concrete evidence of the cumulative impacts surface mining is having on a regional scale," said Emily S. Bernhardt, associate professor of biogeochemistry at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment. "The relationship is clear and direct. The more mining you have upstream, the higher the biological loss and salinity levels will be downstream, and the farther they will extend."

Numerous recent studies have demonstrated the water-quality problems caused at or near the site of individual surface coal mines, Bernhardt noted. She and her team "set out to understand how the large and growing number of surface mines is affecting water quality throughout Appalachia."

They used NASA satellite images and computer data to map the extent of surface mining taking place across a 12,000-square-mile area of the southern West Virginia coalfields between 1976 and 2005.

They found that companies had converted more than five percent of the land into mine sites and buried 480 miles of streams beneath adjacent valley fills during this period.

Chemical and biological data from 223 streams sampled by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection between 1997 and 2007 were combined with mapping to help the researchers determine that pollution runoff from the mines could substantially degrade more than 1,400 miles of streams in the region. That's four times the length of streams buried by the valley fills.

"It's important to recognize that surface coal mining pollution doesn't stop at mine-permit boundaries," said Brian D. Lutz, a postdoctoral associate in Bernhardt's lab.

"Our analysis suggests that mining only five percent of the land surface is degrading between 22 percent and 32 percent of the region's rivers," he said.

Substantial declines in insect diversity began to occur when companies had mined as little as one percent of upstream land, the analysis showed. In areas where companies had converted about five percent of the land into mines, sensitive species such as mayflies and stoneflies had vanished or declined to an extent that the streams would qualify as biologically impaired under criteria set by the state of West Virginia.

The designation means the streams could be placed on a list of waterways that the state must take steps to rehabilitate.

"What is so compelling is that we found many different types of organisms are lost downstream of surface coal mines, and most of them begin to disappear at similar levels of mining," said Ryan S. King, associate professor of biology at Baylor. "Our analysis shows that coal mining is leading to widespread declines in aquatic biodiversity in Appalachian streams."

Lutz and King co-authored the paper with Bernhardt. Other coauthors were John P. Fay, instructor of geospatial analysis at the Nicholas School; Catherine E. Carter, a 2010 master's graduate of the Nicholas School, now at TetraTech; Ashley M. Helton, postdoctoral associate in Duke's Department of Biology; John Amos of SkyTruth; and David Campagna, of Campagna & Associates.

The study was supported by unrestricted gifts in support of research from The Foundation for the Carolinas and the Sierra Club, and through a contract to Amos and Campagna from Appalachian Voices.

Tim Lucas | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.duke.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Scientists produce a new roadmap for guiding development & conservation in the Amazon
09.12.2016 | Wildlife Conservation Society

nachricht Successful calculation of human and natural influence on cloud formation
04.11.2016 | Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Electron highway inside crystal

Physicists of the University of Würzburg have made an astonishing discovery in a specific type of topological insulators. The effect is due to the structure of the materials used. The researchers have now published their work in the journal Science.

Topological insulators are currently the hot topic in physics according to the newspaper Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Only a few weeks ago, their importance was...

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

Researchers identify potentially druggable mutant p53 proteins that promote cancer growth

09.12.2016 | Life Sciences

Scientists produce a new roadmap for guiding development & conservation in the Amazon

09.12.2016 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Satellites, airport visibility readings shed light on troops' exposure to air pollution

09.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>