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 Preservation of floodplains is flood protection
27.09.2017 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Conservationists are sounding the alarm: parrots much more threatened than assumed
15.09.2017 | Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen

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: Salmonella as a tumour medication

HZI researchers developed a bacterial strain that can be used in cancer therapy

Salmonellae are dangerous pathogens that enter the body via contaminated food and can cause severe infections. But these bacteria are also known to target...

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

3rd Symposium on Driving Simulation

23.10.2017 | Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Microfluidics probe 'cholesterol' of the oil industry

23.10.2017 | Life Sciences

Gamma rays will reach beyond the limits of light

23.10.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

The end of pneumonia? New vaccine offers hope

23.10.2017 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>