, Volume 50, Issue 1-2, pp 91-107

Regional estimates of acid mine drainage impact on streams in the mid-atlantic and Southeastern United States

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Abstract

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency conducted the National Stream Survey (NSS) to provide unbiased estimates of the numbers and distribution of acidic and low acid neutralizing capacity streams in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern United States. The NSS employed a probability sample of 500 stream reaches to represent a target population of 64,300 stream reaches in the study area. All NSS samples were screened for acid mine drainage (AMD) influences, and population estimates of the regional extent of AMD impacts were made. Almost 10% of the stream reaches in the Northern Appalachians subregion were acidic during spring baseflow due to AMD. In the entire NSS, an estimated 4590 km (± 1670) of streams (2% of the total NSS length) were acidic due to AMD and another 5780 km (± 2090) of streams were strongly impacted, but not acidic. In subregions of the NSS with observed mine drainage effects, roughly the same number of streams were acidic during spring baseflow due to AMD as due to acidic deposition. The population estimates of mine drainage impact made in the NSS were similar to estimates made in previous surveys that attempted to census all of the streams in coal producing areas. These results demonstrate that a statistically based stream survey is a useful tool for evaluating regional water quality.