Chemical-Constituent Loads During Thunderstorm Runoff in a High-Altitude Alpine Stream Affected by Acid Drainage
Organization: Society for Mining, Metallurgy & Exploration
Jan 1, 2000
Chemical-constituent loads were determined for an alpine stream in southwestern Colorado that is affected by natural acid drainage from weathering of hydrothermally-altered rock and from acidic metal-rich discharge from abandoned mines. Base-flow loads were compared to storm-related loads using a tracer-dilution approach. A rainstom occurred during the tracer injection, providing the opportunity to measure metal loads before, during, and after storm runoff. Chemical-constituent loads during the storm increased by 1 to 2 orders of magnitude relative to base-flow conditions. The increase in loads was related to two distinct periods; (1) a flush of higher concentrations that occurred soon after rainfall began, and (2) the peak of storm runoff. The initial flush-having no measurable change in discharge--contained the highest loads of trace metals and dissolved iron. The chemical character of peak runoff was distinctly different, as evidenced by the highest loads of total and dissolved major elements and total iron.