Long-term Water Quality Monitoring, Colstrip, Montana. Mining of near surface coal deposits in Montana and Wyoming is a significant commercial industry. The Rosebud Coal formation is a member of the Paleocene age Fort Union formation is mined at Colstrip Montana. A large portion of the coal mined is burned on-site for power generation. The large ecological disturbance caused by mining and power generation is a concern to nearby residents, particularly the ranching community downgradient from the mine disturbance. This research project is in its 24th year and provides twice yearly sample collection of ground, surface and spring water quality to ensure the non-degradation of water quality in ranch lands adjacent to the mine. Client: Battelle -- Pacific Northwest Division.
Development and Application of a Pre-Remedial Design Tool For The Clark ForkRiver Superfund Site. In 2004 the Environmental Protection Agency released a record of decision for the remediation of one of the nation's largest Superfund sites -- the upper Clark Fork River in western Montana. Fluvially deposited hard rock mine, mill, and smelter wastes from the Butte/Anaconda industrial complex have contaminated the river's floodplain. These acid metalliferous materials vary in depth from a few centimeters to at least one meter. Phytotoxic conditions limit agricultural production, barren river banks are unstable, and the amount of copper released to the river results in both acute and chronic impacts to aquatic receptors. As stipulated in the Record of Decision, exposed tailings are to be removed, backfilled with clean soil, and revegetated. Streambanks will be stabilized by "soft" engineering -- vegetation fabric, willows, logs, and root wads. Areas of impacted soil and vegetation will be treated in place, using careful addition of lime and other amendments, soil mixing, and re-vegetation. The Record of Decision also specified all land within the site be classified so that impacted areas requiring remediation could be identified. Such a classification system, called the Riparian Evaluation System (RipES) uses key indicators of landscape stability and plant community dysfunction to categorize delineated portions of the site as unique polygons. Each polygon is associated with exact location, surface area, waste volume, and other attributes that are displayed as geographic information system layers over base area photographs. During the 2006/2007 field seasons, the first 80 km of floodplain were classified into one of four major types: (1) streambank (further classified by stability type), (2) exposed tailings, (3) impacted soils and vegetation areas, or (4) slightly impacted soils and vegetation areas. For each of these polygons, a RipES score was derived to determine the most appropriate cleanup remedy specified by the record of decision.
Project Publications: Contact RRG for multiple publications http://www.epa.gov/Region8/superfund/sites/mt/milltowncfr/CFRRipESCombined.pdf
Client: Dennis Smith/CH2M Hill, Boise, ID and USEPA, Region VIII, Montana Office
Phytostabilization of Tailings Pond at an Abandoned Hard Rock Mine.Acid metalliferous wastes resulting from historic gold and copper mining operations at the Keating Mine site in Montana contain phytotoxic levels of several metals and are generally devoid of vegetation. With an estimated volume of 100,000 m3, these tailings represent unacceptable risk to the environment and human health. The tailings are acidic, with pH levels less than 4, and contain elevated concentrations of metals, including copper (500 mg/kg), arsenic (300 mg/kg), and zinc (1000 mg/kg).
Replicated experimental plots were implemented in 2003 using soil amendments, lime and organic matter, designed to reduce the plant inhibiting chemical characteristics of the tailings. The plots were seeded with a mix of indigenous native plant species. Vegetation performance of plants grown in the amended or phytostabilized tailings was compared to results for plants seeded into tailings that were not amended, and performance of plants seeded in an adjacent off-site, but non-impacted area.
Additions of Ca(OH)2, CaCO3 and organic matter allowed seeded native vegetation to establish on previously barren acid metalliferous tailings. Soluble concentrations of metals in the treated root zone were reduced one to three orders of magnitude compared to untreated tailings. Four year's of monitoring data include vegetation emergence and establishment, density, above ground biomass, and canopy cover by species. Canopy cover of perennial grasses growing on the treated tailings was statistically greater than grasses on the untreated tailings and equivalent to grasses growing on the off-site native soils. Colonization by forbs, shrubs, and trees into the treated plots was noted in 2007. These included plains cottonwood (Populusdeltoides) aspen (Populus tremuloides), rubber rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus nauseosus) and big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata). Vegetation in treated plots was dominated by robust slender wheatgrass (Elymus trachycaulus). Concentrations of metals in vegetation were evaluated in terms of plant sufficiency/excess, and in terms of maximum allowable dietary levels for cattle. Elemental levels in perennial grasses were generally below the maximum tolerable concentrations suggested by the National Research Council (NRC 2005) for grazing cattle and horses.
Project Online Publications: www.blm.gov/nstc/library/pdf/TN420.pdf
Client: USDOI-Bureau of Land Management
Contact: Dr. Karl Ford, NSTC, BLM/Denver, CO
Billings Land Reclamation Symposia Series. A Joint Conference of the Billings Land Reclamation Symposium and the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Mining and Reclamation will be held during the first week in June of 2009. Over the past 25 years, the BLRS has focused on land reclamation and rehabilitation issues relevant to the Northern Great Plains and Intermountain West. This symposium has provided a comprehensive forum for dissemination of information through workshops, presentations of research findings, field tours, and the open discussion of public policy relating to land management issues in this region. The BLRS has fostered communication among extractive resource industries, land users and managers, public policy makers, environmental consultants, and the university research community. Its traditional concept has been one of achieving common goals through appropriate partnerships.
Project Publications: Contact RRG for Proceedings of past Symposia.
Contact: Dennis Neuman, Reclamation Research Group, Bozeman, MT
Effects of Acid Rock Drainage and Associated Environmental Contaminants on Fish and Wildlife in Alaska.The US Fish and Wildlife Service -- Anchorage, AK Field Office has contracted the Reclamation Research Group to complete a literature review on the effects of acid rock drainage and associated environmental contaminants on freshwater fish health and ecology. Several large mine projects in Alaska have the potential to adversely effect fisheries through degradation of surface water by oxidation of sulfides unearthed during mining. The USWFS is the federal Trustee for these resources and requires that permitted activities carry no undue environmental impact. To ensure that federal managers are aware of the specific consequence and appropriate mitigation, the Reclamation Research Group was contracted to prepare a report highlighting findings from the scientific literature and practical guidelines developed by practitioners to characterize and mitigate the consequence of acid rock drainage.
Restoration Planning at Milltown Reservoir A large dam was built at the confluence of Montana's Blackfoot and Clark Fork River in 1906 for power generation. A 1908 flood substantially filled the reservoir with mine waste, ultimately resulting in contamination of the nearby community water supply. Removal of the dam and contaminated sediments was ordered by EPA followed by restoration of the floodplain. Identification of clean borrow soil suitable for plant growth has been initiated in parallel with delineation of the extent of contaminated sediment. This project is ongoing with floodplain restoration planned for 2009 and 2010. The legacy of this project will be a free flowing river substantially decontaminated of mine waste.
Client: Montana Department of Justice, Natural Resource Damage Program
Project Publications: Contact RRG for multiple publications
Remedial Design for Stabilization of Floodplain Tailings, Operable Unit 11, Leadville, Colorado Historic mining occurring in Leadville Colorado has resulted in releases of contaminated soil, tailings and water to the Arkansas River. Flood events, irrigation and natural geomorphic processes have reshaped these deposits resulting in a mosaic of soil and vegetation condition ranging from bare fluvial tailing deposits to robust native vegetation. Risks to water resources, aquatic receptors and phytotoxicity to vegetation caused EPA to prioritize action to mitigate these environmental threats. The Reclamation Research Group was contracted to streamline implementation of the remedy based on similar experiences in Montana. Site characterization, data collection and field reconnaissance has been completed and construction is planned for 2008-2009 of an 11 mile reach of the Arkansas River.
Client: EPA Region VIII, Denver, CO
Project Publications: Pending
Development of Acid and Metal Tolerant Native Plants through Micro-cutting Propagation Revegetation of disturbed land is complicated by several factors including the availability of plant material. Native grass seed is widely available and inexpensive, yet many degraded sites have sufficiently unique chemical conditions that commercially available seed performs poorly. Development of alternative cultivars is a decade long process. As a result the palate of available species is drastically narrowed by both the inhospitable soil conditions created by elevated metal levels and soil acidity, and the commercial absence of tolerant native plant options. However, many disturbed sites exhibit recolonization along the fringes by tolerant native plants that exhibit unique adaptation to these harsh mine environment conditions. While seed is unavailable for these colonizing "superplants", micro-cuttings can be collected and grown into clonal greenhouse stock through tissue culturing. Working with a small specialty company, SBIR funding has been used to identify, collect and propagate native plants found growing in acidic and metal-enriched mine waste. Proof of principle has been established and additional funding has been sought to commercialize the collection, propagation and sale of these unique plant assemblages.
Client: Mike King, SMK Plants
Capping and Closure of Coal Ash Disposal Ponds, Vegetation Performance and Soil Water Modeling Coal combustion in power plants generates large volumes as ash in the U.S. annually. Coal ash is sometimes converted to building materials such as cement block, or sometimes stored on-site. Revegetation of ash disposal ponds has been performed using earthen covers and the resulting plant community is being monitored to evaluate successional processes. Additional studies have been instrumented using soil sensors and dataloggers to quantify the evapotranspiration of precipitation by the soil cover.
Assessments of Arsenic and Lead in Yard Soils and House Dusts in Anaconda Smelter NPL Site. RRG scientists are assisting EPA with evaluation of arsenic and lead concentrations in yard soils and house dusts within the city of Anaconda, Mt. These activities are part of the cleanup of the Community Soils Operable Unit at the Anaconda Smelter Superfund Site. Client:
CDM Federal Programs Corp.
Reclamation Research Group, LLC 376 Gallatin Park Drive Bozeman, MT 59715 Phone 406.585.7402 Email firstname.lastname@example.org