Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Contaminated water from abandoned mines threatens colorado ski areas, say Colorado U. researchers

18.09.2003


The ability of several of Colorado’s prime ski areas to respond to winter drought is threatened by acidic runoff from abandoned mines, according to researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder and the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments.



Contamination known as acid-rock drainage enters waterways, such as Summit County’s Snake River, that are used for making artificial snow. When the snow melts, the water can run into streams not previously polluted, further spreading the contamination, said the research team.

CU-Boulder’s Andrew Todd and Diane McKnight of the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research and Lane Wyatt of the Northwest Council of Governments describe how past Colorado mining is adversely affecting tourism, now a $9 billion industry. The paper will be published in the Sept. 23rd issue of Eos, published by the American Geophysical Union.


They note that the problem is not limited to Colorado or to the United States. Worldwide, mine contamination affects more than 12,000 miles of rivers and streams and 180,000 acres of lakes, according to the U.S. Bureau of Mines.

In Colorado alone, roughly 7,000 abandoned mines continue to leach waste minerals into more than 1,600 miles of streams. The state’s long mining history is clearly visible to motorists on Interstate 70 heading west from Denver to the ski areas of Summit County in the form of orange mine tailings, weathered structures and even in the names of some communities and ski trails.

Colorado’s severe drought has made artificial snowmaking essential at many ski areas, including Keystone and Arapahoe Basin, the focus of the authors’ study. The main portion of the Snake River, which is contaminated with heavy metals, has been the source of Keystone’s artificial snowmaking since 1971.

Heavy metals have been detected in headwater drainages within the ski areas, according to a recent study conducted by Hydrosphere, a regional consulting firm. Resort management is seeking to more than double the amount of Snake River water it utilizes for snowmaking. Currently, at the point where river water is diverted for this purpose, concentrations of zinc, cadmium and copper occasionally exceed criteria for aquatic life, including three of the four species of trout found in state streams.

Although periodic droughts are normal in Colorado, affecting at least 5 percent of the state periodically, ski resorts also are concerned about the potential additional impact of climate change, which could add to the problem of inadequate snow. Recent studies cited by the authors suggest that warming, under even the most conservative scenarios, could shorten the ski season, shift ski areas to higher elevations and eliminate marginal areas altogether.

One method of mitigating these effects would be additional snowmaking on a large scale, wrote the authors. Another is moving to a four-season strategy, with spring, summer and fall activities focused on fishing, golfing and rafting. Many of these activities depend on clean water supplies, however, and winter snowmaking, using less abundant and contaminated water, can adversely affect these other sports.

The authors observe that, at present, there are no reliable methods of mitigating acid-rock drainage at its source, the abandoned mines that dot today’s recreational areas.

Both McKnight and Todd also are affiliated with the environmental engineering program at CU-Boulder.


Note to Editors: Journalists may obtain a copy of this article on request by contacting Harvey Leifert (hleifert@agu.org). Please provide your name, the name of the publication (Abandoned Mines), address, phone and email address.

Additional Contacts: Andrew Todd, (303) 735-6059
andrew.todd@colorado.edu
Diane McKnight, (303) 492-4687
diane.mcknight@colorado.edu
Harvey Leifert, AGU (202) 777-7507
Jim Scott, CU (303) 492-3114

Andrew Todd | American Geophysical Union
Further information:
http://www.colorado.edu/

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Dead trees are alive with fungi
10.01.2018 | Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ)

nachricht Management of mountain meadows influences resilience to climate extremes
10.01.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biogeochemie

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: Scientists decipher key principle behind reaction of metalloenzymes

So-called pre-distorted states accelerate photochemical reactions too

What enables electrons to be transferred swiftly, for example during photosynthesis? An interdisciplinary team of researchers has worked out the details of how...

Im Focus: The first precise measurement of a single molecule's effective charge

For the first time, scientists have precisely measured the effective electrical charge of a single molecule in solution. This fundamental insight of an SNSF Professor could also pave the way for future medical diagnostics.

Electrical charge is one of the key properties that allows molecules to interact. Life itself depends on this phenomenon: many biological processes involve...

Im Focus: Paradigm shift in Paris: Encouraging an holistic view of laser machining

At the JEC World Composite Show in Paris in March 2018, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be focusing on the latest trends and innovations in laser machining of composites. Among other things, researchers at the booth shared with the Aachen Center for Integrative Lightweight Production (AZL) will demonstrate how lasers can be used for joining, structuring, cutting and drilling composite materials.

No other industry has attracted as much public attention to composite materials as the automotive industry, which along with the aerospace industry is a driver...

Im Focus: Room-temperature multiferroic thin films and their properties

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) and Tohoku University have developed high-quality GFO epitaxial films and systematically investigated their ferroelectric and ferromagnetic properties. They also demonstrated the room-temperature magnetocapacitance effects of these GFO thin films.

Multiferroic materials show magnetically driven ferroelectricity. They are attracting increasing attention because of their fascinating properties such as...

Im Focus: A thermometer for the oceans

Measurement of noble gases in Antarctic ice cores

The oceans are the largest global heat reservoir. As a result of man-made global warming, the temperature in the global climate system increases; around 90% of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

10th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Münster, 10-11 April 2018

08.01.2018 | Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

White graphene makes ceramics multifunctional

16.01.2018 | Materials Sciences

Breaking bad metals with neutrons

16.01.2018 | Materials Sciences

ISFH-CalTeC is “designated test centre” for the confirmation of solar cell world records

16.01.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>