Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Study sheds light on mess in polluted streams

27.09.2002


Downstream from mining sites, a suffocating gel forms in the water of creeks and rivers. A new study by an international team of researchers details the processes that make that gel and should advance our understanding of the damaging environmental effects of mine drainage and acid rain.



"This new nanoscale level of understanding of trace metal pollution of streams opens new doors for addressing the problem of contaminated waters in affected areas," says Sonia Esperanca, program director in the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) division of earth sciences, which funded the research.

According to the team’s report in this Friday’s issue (Sept. 27) of the journal Science, the gel results when runoff made acidic by mining or acid rain collects aluminum from local soils and then mixes with stream water that is less acidic. In subsequent chemical reactions, aluminum molecules link together to form polymer gel.


Scientists call the gel "floc" and say its influence is widespread: Mining disrupts about 240,000 square kilometers of the Earth’s surface (about 93,000 square miles, an area roughly the size of Oregon).

The gelatinous floc is bad enough by itself; it gums up the gills of fish and suffocates them, and is equally deadly to other aquatic animals and plants. But it also possesses another dangerous quality: It binds to toxic metals, including mercury, lead and cadmium, and transports them far downstream.

"This combination of floc and metals pollutes streams," said William Casey, a University of California at Davis geochemist and an author of the new report. "Bad things adsorb into this gel and then it travels forever."

Knowing how floc forms at the molecular level may suggest some practical solutions, Casey said. One such solution might be to stop aluminum from migrating into streams.

"Now we know how these pollutants enter the watershed, how fast they move and perhaps how to prevent the reactions by cutting off the ingredients. Detailing the molecular pathways helps us better understand the pollutants’ source and their fate," Casey said.

Cheryl Dybas | EurekAlert!

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Safeguarding sustainability through forest certification mapping
27.06.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

nachricht Dune ecosystem modelling
26.06.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

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: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Supersensitive through quantum entanglement

28.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy under real ambient pressure conditions

28.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Mice provide insight into genetics of autism spectrum disorders

28.06.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>