An integrative assessment of a watershed impacted by abandoned mined land discharges

D. S. Cherry, R. J. Currie, D. J. Soucek, H. A. Latimer, G. C. Trent

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Ely Creek watershed in Lee County, VA, USA, contains an abundance of abandoned mined land areas with acid mine drainage (AMD) that contaminate the majority of the creek and its confluence into Stone Creek. Acidic pH measurements ranged from 2.73 to 5.2 at several stations throughout the watershed. Sediments had high concentrations of iron (˜10,000 mg kg-1), aluminum (˜1,500 mg kg-1), magnesium (˜400 mg kg-1) and manganese (˜150 mg kg-1), and habitat was partially to non-supporting at half of the stations due to sedimentation. Benthic macroinvertebrate surveys at six of 20 stations sampled in the watershed yielded no macroinvertebrates, while eight others had total abundances of only one to nine organisms. Four reference stations contained ≥ 100 organisms and at least 13 different taxa. Asian clam in situ toxicity testing supported field survey results. Laboratory, 10-day survival/impairment sediments tests with Daphnia magna and Chironomus tentans and 48-h water column bioassays with Ceriodaphnia dubia indicated environmental stress to a lesser degree. Ten parameters that were directly influenced by AMD through physical, chemical, ecological and toxicological endpoints were assimilated into an ecotoxicological rating (ETR) to form a score of 0-100 points for the 20 sampling stations, and the lower the score the greater the AMD stress. Twelve of the 15 sampling stations influenced by AMD received an ETR score of 13.75-57.5, which were categorized as severely stressed (i.e. comprised the < 60 percentile category) and worthy of the highest priority for future ecological restoration activities in the watershed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)377-388
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Acid mine drainage
  • Integrative assessments

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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