Work funded with $1.59-million from the National Science Foundation
Highly acidic drainage from an abandoned sulfide mine in Rowe is slowly cleaning itself over time, and an interdisciplinary research team from the University of Massachusetts Amherst is studying why. The group brings together experts from the fields of microbiology, geology, engineering, and science education, to determine the extent and rate of bioremediation. Researchers say their findings may enable quicker natural cleanups not just at this mine, but at others throughout the country and the world. The interdisciplinary project has received a $1.59-million grant from the "Biocomplexity in the Environment" program of the National Science Foundation. This highly competitive program has funded only 10 projects this year nationwide.
"The mine collapsed in 1911 and filled with groundwater," explained Klaus Nüsslein, assistant professor of microbiology. "The overflowing groundwater drains out of the old mine shafts, and flows down the stream channel." The drainage waters are more acidic than vinegar, with pH values around 2, and carry large loads of metals, including copper, zinc, and iron, Nüsslein said. "In other areas of the country, similar acid-mine drainage from former coal or gold mines can mobilize additional undesirable contaminants." Researchers stress, however, that there is no threat to the local environment or the area’s water supply, because the iron sulfide in the Davis Mine contains few hazardous impurities. This makes the site an ideal subject for examining the natural processes that are contained in the drainage. Rowe is located in western Massachusetts, near the Vermont border.
Elizabeth Luciano | EurekAlert!
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