Controls on the nature and distribution of an alga in coal mine-waste environments and its potential impact on water quality
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A dominant non-bacterial microorganism that may strongly impact environmental conditions in acid mine drainage at several Indiana coal mine sites is a single-celled protozoan, Euglena mutabilis. Field data suggest E. mutabilis has high tolerance for elevated total dissolved solids (TDS), to 18 g/l, and acid conditions to pH 1.7. Distribution is restricted to unmixed effluent pH<4.6, with prolific growth between pH 3.0 and 3.5. Additional factors influencing E. mutabilis include preference for areas with lower mineral/colloidal precipitation rates and a stable substrate of iron-rich precipitates. Initial studies indicate that in areas of prolific growth it contributes to oversaturation of dissolved oxygen by up to 200%. The presence of small orange intracellular crystalline-like structures, similar in color to iron oxyhydroxides, suggests that E. mutabilis may be sequestering iron, and possibly other metals. Further work is needed to determine if E. mutabilis contributes to natural mitigation of poor water quality at these and other coal mine sites.
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