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 Despite government claims, orangutan populations have not increased. Call for better monitoring
06.11.2018 | Deutsches Zentrum für integrative Biodiversitätsforschung (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig

nachricht Increasing frequency of ocean storms could alter kelp forest ecosystems
30.10.2018 | University of Virginia

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: UNH scientists help provide first-ever views of elusive energy explosion

Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.

Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...

Im Focus: A Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

Im Focus: Penn engineers develop ultrathin, ultralight 'nanocardboard'

When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure

Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

European Space Talks: Weltraumschrott – eine Gefahr für die Gesellschaft?

23.10.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Purdue cancer identity technology makes it easier to find a tumor's 'address'

16.11.2018 | Health and Medicine

Good preparation is half the digestion

16.11.2018 | Life Sciences

Microscope measures muscle weakness

16.11.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>