Acid Rock Drainage and Water Quality: Potential Environmental Health Impacts in Alaska

April 30, 2014
10:00 am US Eastern Time

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Environmental geochemist Dr. Kendra Zamzow discussed of how acid mine drainage affects water chemistry and environmental health. Acid rock drainage is one of the major sources of toxic metals associated with mining. When waste rock excavated from the mine is exposed to air and water, it chemically reacts to form sulfuric acid, essentially dissolving the surface of the rock. Metals leach out from the rock and may contaminate both surface and ground water. Metal leaching of some elements like arsenic and selenium can also occur without acid. Direct exposure to these metals can be harmful to fish and people, and indirectly metal reactions can lead to changes in water quality that affect aquatic habitat.

Featured Speaker

Kendra Zamzow, PhD, is an environmental biogeochemist and the Alaska representative for the Center for Science in Public Participation (CSP2). She specializes in microbial interactions with trace metals, environmental toxicology, and processes relating to acid rock drainage, metal leaching, and water quality.

Since joining CSP2, Dr. Zamzow has provided technical analysis of projects including copper heap leach closure, arsenic chemistry in a tailings impoundment, mercury release from thermal processing of gold, potential for acid drainage, and chemistry of underground coal gasification. She has commented on regulatory issues including federal gold mine mercury air emission regulations and Alaska coal and water quality regulations.

Recently she completed an American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS) Science & Technology Policy Fellowship at the EPA Office of Research and Development in Washington, DC. She currently lives in Chickaloon, Alaska.

This call was hosted by the CHE-AK Partnership.