Reactive transport modeling of remedial scenarios to predict cadmium, copper, and zinc in north fork of Clear Creek, Colorado


  • This article is a U.S. government work and, as such, is in the public domain of the United States of America.


The North Fork of Clear Creek (NFCC), Colorado, is an acid-mine-drainage-impacted stream typical of many mountain surface waters affected by historic metal mining in the western United States. The stream is devoid of fish primarily because of high metal concentrations in the water (e.g., copper and zinc) and has large amounts of settled iron oxyhydroxide solids that coat the streambed. The NFCC is part of the Central City/Clear Creek Superfund site, and remediation plans are being implemented that include treatment of three of the main point-source inputs and cleanup of some tailings and waste rock piles. This article examines dissolved (0.45-μm filterable) concentrations of cadmium, copper, and zinc following several potential remediation scenarios, simulated using a reactive transport model (WASP4/META4). Results from modeling indicate that for cadmium, remediation of the primary point-source adit discharges should be sufficient to achieve acute and chronic water-quality standards under both high- and low-flow conditions. To achieve standards for copper and zinc, however, the modeling scenarios suggest that it may be necessary to treat or remove contaminated streambed sediments in downstream reaches, as well as identify and treat nonpoint sources of metals. Recommendations for improvements to the model for metal transport in acid-mine drainage impacted streams are made. These recommendations are being implemented by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. © 2009 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.