The Effects Of Pollution At The Iron Mountain Mine

2492 Words 10 Pages
Since the 1970s, over 23.5 million pounds of copper and zinc has flowed out of the Iron Mountain Mine due to mining activities (Sickles 2013). Pollution from mines is disastrous because they contaminate the nearby river systems. Due the severity of the pollution at the Iron Mountain Mine, the EPA had to pass necessary measures to decrease the amount of pollution present in the surrounding water systems through the process of remediation (EPA 2015). The EPA has enacted several measures to decrease the amount of zinc and copper in the rivers from several water systems especially on Spring Creek area. To determine the levels of zinc and copper, the EPA had to collect, test, and analyze water samples from Spring Creek through various methods. The …show more content…
Several types of pollution caused by mines include acid mine drainage, low pH balance, and soluble salts. The most common type of pollution caused by the Iron Mountain Mine is acid mine drainage, which is water that has been contaminated by the release of heavy metals from a mine (EPA 2015). Acid mine drainage is caused by the oxidation of the mineral pyrite which allows the creation of sulfuric acid which decreases the pH of the water. The low pH balance allows iron and sulfur oxidizing bacteria to accelerate the process of oxidation. As the sulfuric acid seeps through the rock, it extracts the metal ions like copper, zinc, and cadmium out of the exposed rock, resulting in increased levels of these metals in the water systems (Sugarek, 2003; Nordstrom, ). Salts (chemical compounds that consist of a positive and a negative ion) that form from acid mine drainage and contain heavy metals can dissolve in the rivers and move to other areas. All these different types of pollution are present at the Iron Mountain Mine and the EPA must try to remove them in order to reduce the detrimental effects on the …show more content…
The following year, the EPA sent down a team of geologists to conduct several field investigations called Remedial Investigations (RI). The purpose of these initial field studies was to determine where the origin of the contamination came from (Porter, 1986). The RI was done to find the environmental and public health effects of the mine. The investigation consisted of sampling for heavy metals in the water, checking flow and precipitation measurements, and understanding the types of rock and how the water systems in the area are all interconnected. The RI took 17 months to complete which include the analysis of 450 water samples that were collected throughout the Iron Mountain Mine area. After analyzing all the available data, it was found that there were five major locations that allowed contaminated seeps and flows to exit from the Iron Mountain Mine Examples of the sources of these seeps and flows are the Lawson Portal which is a mine opening and the Old No. 8 Mine Seep (Porter, 1986). The results of these RI’s prompted the EPA to begin the remediation process at the Iron Mountain

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