Title page for ETD etd-09182001-212736


Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Schmidt, Travis Scott
Author's Email Address trschmid@vt.edu
URN etd-09182001-212736
Title Development and Implementation of Integrative Bioassessment Techniques to Delineate Small Order Acid Mine Drainage Impacted Streams of the North Fork Powell River, Southwestern Virginia.
Degree Master of Science
Department Biology
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Cherry, Donald S. Committee Chair
Smith, Eric P. Committee Member
Voshell, J. Reese Jr. Committee Member
Zipper, Carl E. Committee Member
Keywords
  • ecotoxicological rating
  • Acid mine drainage
  • benthic macroinvertebrates
  • integrative bioassessment
Date of Defense 2001-09-10
Availability unrestricted
Abstract
Acid mine drainage (AMD) results from the oxidation of pyretic mineralogy, exposed by

mining operations to oxygen and water. This reaction produces sulfuric acid and

liberates heavy metals from the surrounding mineralogy and impairs water quality and

freshwater communities. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has begun an ecosystem

restoration project to remediate the abandoned mine land (AML) impacts to the North

Fork Powell River (NFP) and is utilizing the ecotoxicological rating (ETR) system to

delineate these affects to focus restoration efforts. The ETR was developed to summarize

the integrative data into a single number ranging from 0 to 100, which is descriptive of

the environmental integrity of a sampling station. The ETR is conceptualized to work as

an academic grading scale (0 through 100), rating reference stations with A's (90-100)

and B's (80-89) and impacted stations with C's (70-80), D's (60-70) and failures (F =

60). Two rounds of ETR investigations have evaluated seven headwater tributaries to

the NFP including investigations of Ely and Puckett's Creek from 1997 and 1998. This

thesis contains the results of the second series of ETR investigations at 41 stations in Cox

Creek, Jone's Creek, Reed's Creek, Summers Fork, Straight Creek, and areas in the NFP.

Eight stations were recommended for reclamation; CC 03, JCRF2 02, JCRF2 01, RCPS

09B, RCPS 11B, SULF 01, SU 02, and SU 01. Summers Fork was the most severely

impacted watershed of the second round of ETR investigations. An effort to streamline

the ETR to the most ecologically predictive parameters was successful in creating a

system more time and cost efficient then the initial ETRs and exclusive of benthic

macroinvertebrate surveys. The Modified ETR streamlined the ETR to just 5 parameters

including; mean conductivity, mean Asian clam survival, mean aluminum (Al) and

manganese (Mn) in the water column, and mean habitat score to describe the AMD

impacts to small headwater streams. Also, an investigation was conducted to determine

the mode of toxicity, (i.e., exposures to metal contaminated surface waters or sediments)

by which Al and iron (Fe) dominated AMD impairs benthic macroinvertebrate

communities. It was found that water column exposures both within and beyond the zone

of pH depression are the most likely mode by which AMD impairs the benthic

macroinvertebrate communities of the NFP.

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