Application of a depositional facies model to an acid mine drainage site

Juliana F. Brown, Daniel S. Jones, Daniel B. Mills, Jennifer L. Macalady, William D. Burgos

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43 Scopus citations


Lower Red Eyes is an acid mine drainage site in Pennsylvania where low-pH Fe(II) oxidation has created a large, terraced iron mound downstream of an anoxic, acidic, metal-rich spring. Aqueous chemistry, mineral precipitates, microbial communities, and laboratory-based Fe(II) oxidation rates for this site were analyzed in the context of a depositional facies model. Depositional facies were defined as pools, terraces, or microterracettes based on cm-scale sediment morphology, irrespective of the distance downstream from the spring. The sediments were composed entirely of Fe precipitates and cemented organic matter. The Fe precipitates were identified as schwertmannite at all locations, regardless of facies. Microbial composition was studied with fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) and transitioned from a microaerophilic, Euglena-dominated community at the spring, to a Betaproteobacteria (primarily Ferrovum spp.)-dominated community at the upstream end of the iron mound, to a Gammaproteobacteria (primarily Acidithiobacillus)-dominated community at the downstream end of the iron mound. Microbial community structure was more strongly correlated with pH and geochemical conditions than depositional facies. Intact pieces of terrace and pool sediments from upstream and downstream locations were used in flowthrough laboratory reactors to measure the rate and extent of low-pH Fe(II) oxidation. No change in Fe(II) concentration was observed with 60Co-irradiated sediments or with no-sediment controls, indicating that abiotic Fe(II) oxidation was negligible. Upstream sediments attained lower effluent Fe(II) concentrations compared to downstream sediments, regardless of depositional facies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)545-554
Number of pages10
JournalApplied and environmental microbiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 2011


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