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Chemical Modeling of Acid Waters

Questa Baseline and Pre-Mining Ground-Water Quality Investigation, Red River Valley Basin, New Mexico

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The US Geological Survey and the New Mexico Environment Department entered into a Joint Powers Agreement as of April 30, 2001 to execute an investigation of baseline and pre-mining ground-water quality in the Red River Basin, New Mexico. The main objective is to infer the pre-mining ground-water quality at the Questa Molycorp mine site. This study was formulated because New Mexico law states that part of the closeout plan for mining sites must include compliance with ground-water quality standards unless it can be shown that prior to mining there existed ground-water quality that exceeded these standards. There are reasons to believe that such standards may have been exceeded before mining although no direct information exists. If these conditions can be reasonably demonstrated and found acceptable to the appropriate parties, then they may be used in lieu of the existing ground-water quality standards.

 

This investigation uses a multi-faceted approach to determining pre-mining ground-water quality that includes determination of the existing hydrogeologic and geochemical conditions at off-site analog areas, modeling of the hydrogeochemical conditions off site, determination of parameters that would have affected on-site controls of hydrogeology and geochemistry before mining, and appropriate scaling and modeling of on-site conditions.

 

USGS Participants

  • NRP:  Kirk Nordstrom, Philip Verplanck, James Ball, Blaine McCleskey, Sara LoVetere, Ann Maest, Dennis Eberl, Kirk Vincent

  • NM District: Cheryl Naus, Nathan Myers, Lisa Donohoe

  • GD: Geoff Plumlee, Eric Livo, Steve Ludington, Kathy Smith, Michael Powers, Stan Church, Jeff Lucius

  • CO District:  Rob Runkel, Katie Walton-Day

  • UT District: Briant Kimball, Judy Steiger

  • CA District : Charlie Alpers (External Reviewer)

 

USGS Questa Publications

Publications Completed

Lucius, J.E.,  Bisdorf, R.J., and Abraham, J. (2001) Results of Electrical Surveys near Red River, New Mexico, U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 01-0331.

Livo, K.E. and Clark, R. N. (2002) Mapped Minerals at Questa, New Mexico, Using Airbourne Visible-Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRIS) Data -- Preliminary Report, U.S.Geological Survey Open-File Report 02-0026.

Powers, M.H. and Burton, B.L. (2004) Questa Baseline and Pre-Mining Ground-Water Quality Investigation. 1. Depth to Bedrock Determinations Using Shallow Seismic Data Acquired in the Straight Creek Drainage Near Red River, New Mexico, U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2004-1236.

McCleskey, R.B., Nordstrom, D.K., Steiger, J.I., Kimball, B.A.,and Verplanck, P.L. (2003) Questa Baseline and Pre-Mining Ground-Water Quality Investigation. 2. Low-Flow (2001) and Snowmelt (2002) Synoptic/Tracer Water Chemistry for the Red River, New Mexico. U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 03-148.

Lovetere, S.H., Nordstrom, D.K., Maest, A.S., and Naus, C.A. (2004) Questa Baseline and Pre-Mining Ground-Water Quality Investigation. 3. Historical Ground-Water Quality for the Red River Valley, New Mexico. U.S. Geological Survey Water-Resources Investigations Report 03-4186.

Maest, A.S.,  Nordstrom, D.K., and Lovetere, S.H. (2004) Questa Baseline and Pre-Mining Ground-Water Quality Investigation. 4. Historical Surface-Water Quality for the Red River Valley, New Mexico. U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2004-5063.

Naus, C.A., McCleskey, R.B., Nordstrom, D.K., Donohoe, L.C., Hunt. A.G., Paillet, F., Morin, R.H., and Verplanck, P.L. (2005) Questa Baseline and Pre-Mining Ground-Water Quality Investigation. 5. Well Installation, Water-Level Data, and Surface- and Ground-Water Geochemistry in the Straight Creek Drainage Basin, Red River Valley, New Mexico, 2001-03. U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2005-5088. 

Caine, J.S. (2003) Questa Baseline and Pre-Mining Ground-Water Quality Investigation. 6. Preliminary Brittle Structural Geologic Data, Questa Mining District, southern Sangre de Cristo Mountains, New Mexico. U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 03-280.

Plumlee, G.S., Ludington, S., Vincent, K.R., Verplanck, P.L., Caine, J.S., and Livo, K.E. (2006) Questa Baseline and Pre-Mining Ground-Water Quality Investigation. 7. A pictorial record of chemical weathering, erosional processes and potential debri-flow hazards in scar areas developed on hydrothermally altered rocks. U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2006-1205.

Church, S.E., Fey, D.L., and Marot, M.E. (2005) Questa Baseline and Pre-Mining Ground-Water Quality Investigation. 8. Lake-Sediment Geochemical Record from 1960 to 2002, Eagle Rock and Fawn Lakes, Taos County, New Mexico. U.S.Geological Survey Open-File Report 2005-5006.

Ludington, S., Plumlee, G.S., Caine, J.S., Bove, D., Holloway, J.M., and Livo, K.E. (2004) Questa Baseline and Pre-Mining Ground-Water Quality Investigation. 10. Geologic influences on ground and surface waters in the lower Red River watershed, New Mexico. U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2004-5245.

Briggs, P.H. Sutley, S.J., and Livo, K.E. (2003) Questa Baseline and Pre-Mining Ground-Water Quality Investigations. 11. Geochemistry of alteration scars and waste piles, U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 03-458.

Ball, J.W., Runkel, R.L., and Nordstrom, D.K. (2005) Questa Baseline and Pre-Mining Ground-Water Quality Investigation. 12. Geochemical and Reactive-Transport Modeling Based on Low-Flow and Snowmelt Tracer Studies for the Red River, New Mexico. U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2005-5149.

Plumlee, G.S., Lowers, H., Koenig, A., Ludington, S. (2005) Questa baseline and pre-mining ground-water quality investigation. 13. Mineral microscopy and chemistry of mined and unmined porphyry molybdenum mineralization along the Red River, New Mexico: Implications for ground- and surface-water quality. US Geological Survey Open-File Report 2005-1442.

Nordstrom, D.K., McCleskey, R.B., Hunt, A.G., and Naus, C.A.,  (2005) Questa Baseline and Pre-Mining Ground-Water Quality  Investigation. 14. Interpretation of ground-water geochemistry in catchments other than the Straight Creek catchment, Red River Valley, Taos County, New Mexico, 2002-2003. U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2005-5050.

Blanchard, P.J., Bartolino, J.R., Naus, C. A., and Morin, R.H. (2006) Questa Baseline and Pre-Mining Ground-Water Quality Investigation. 15. Methods and results of well installation, development, and logging and water-level data collection in the Red River basin, New Mexico, 2002-2004: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2006-5246.

McCleskey, R.B. Nordstrom, D.K., and Naus, C.A. (2004) Questa Baseline and Pre-Mining Ground-Water Quality Investigation. 16. Quality assurance and quality control of water analyses. U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2004-1341.

Vincent, K. (2006) Questa Baseline and Pre-Mining Ground-Water Quality Investigation. 17. Geomorphology of the shallow alluvial aquifer of the Red River valley, New Mexico. U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2006-5156.

Caine, J.S. (2006) Questa Baseline and Pre-Mining Ground-Water Quality Investigation. 18. Characterization of brittle structures in the Questa caldera and speculation on their potential impacts on the bedrock ground-water flow system, Red River watershed, New Mexico. U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1729, p. 37.

Smith, K.S., Hageman, P.L., Briggs, P.H., Sutley, S.J., McCleskey, R.B., Livo, K.E., Verplanck, P.L., Adams, M.G., and Gemery-Hill, P.A., 2007, Questa baseline and pre-mining ground-water quality investigation: 19. Leaching characteristics of composited materials from mine waste-rock piles and naturally altered areas near Questa, New Mexico.  U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2006-5165, 49 p.

Verplanck, P.L., McCleskey, R.B., and Nordstrom, D.K. (2006) Questa Baseline and Pre-Mining Ground-Water Quality Investigation. 20. Water chemistry of the Red River and selected seeps, tributaries, and precipitation, Taos County, New Mexico, 2000-2004. U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2006-5028. 

Naus, C.A., McAda, D.P., Myers, N.C. (2006) Questa Baseline and Pre-Mining Ground-Water Quality Investigation. 21. Hydrology and water balance of the Red River Basin, New Mexico 1930-2004. U.S.Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2006-5040.

McAda, D.P. and Naus, C.A. (2006) Questa Baseline and Pre-Mining Ground-Water Quality Investigation. 22. Ground-Water Budget for the Straight Creek Drainage Basin, Red River Valley, New Mexico. U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2007-5149.

Kimball, B.A., Nordstrom, D.K., Runkel, R.L., and Verplanck, P.L. (2006) Questa Baseline and Pre-Mining Ground-Water Quality Investigation. 23. Quantification of  mass loading from mined and unmined areas along the Red River, New Mexico. U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2006-5004.

Powers, Michael H., and Burton, Bethany L., 2006, Questa baseline and pre-mining ground-water quality investigation. 24. Seismic refraction tomography for volume analysis of saturated alluvium in the Straight Creek drainage and its confluence with Red River, Taos County, New Mexico: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigation Report 2006-5166, 19 p. 

Nordstrom, D.K., 2007, Questa baseline and pre-mining ground-water quality investigation. 25. Summary of results and baseline and pre-mining ground-water geochemistry, Red River Valley, Taos County, New Mexico, 2001-2005: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1728, p. 183.

 

 

Abstracts and Other Publications

 

Smith, K.S., Hageman, P.L., and Briggs, P.H., 2005, Leaching characteristics of composited materials from mine waste-rock piles and naturally altered areas near Questa, New Mexico:  Geological Society of America 2005 Annual Meeting, Salt Lake City, Utah, October 16-19, 2005, Abstracts with Programs, v. 37, no. 7, p. 395.

 

Hunt, A.G., Naus, C.A., Nordstrom, D.K., and Landis, G.P.(2004) Use of 3-helium/tritium ages to determine chlorofluorocarbon degradation associated with naturally occurring acid drainage, Questa, New Mexico, in Geological Society of America, 2004 annual meeting.: Abstracts with Programs - Geological Society of America: Boulder, CO, p. 574.

Maest, A.S., Nordstrom, D.K., and LoVetere, S.H. (2004) Influence of hydrologic conditions on historical water quality in a stream affected by natural and mining-related sources, 1965-2001, in Geological Society of America, 2004 annual meeting.: Abstracts with Programs - Geological Society of America: Boulder, CO, p. .86.

Nordstrom, D.K., Naus, C.N., McCleskey, R.B., Verplanck, P.L. (2004) Contrasting ground-water geochemistry between acidic debris-flow waters and neutral-pH bedrock waters in mineralized volcanics, Red River valley, New Mexico, in Geological Society of America, 2004 annual meeting.: Abstracts with Programs - Geological Society of America: Boulder, CO, p. 465.

McCleskey, R.B., Verplanck, P.L., and Nordstrom, D. K. (2004) Storm and diel surface-water chemistry variation in the Red River near Questa, New Mexico, in Geological Society of America, 2004 annual meeting.: Abstracts with Programs - Geological Society of America: Boulder, CO, p. 29.

Ball, J.W., Runkel, R.L., and Nordstrom, D.K. (2004) Geochemical and reactive-transport modeling based on low-flow and snowmelt tracer studies for the Red River, New Mexico, in Geological Society of America, 2004 annual meeting.: Abstracts with Programs - Geological Society of America: Boulder, CO, p. 29.

Verplanck, P.L., Nordstrom, D.K., Manning, A.H., Caine, J.S., Plumlee, G.S., Hunt,  A.G., and Bove, D. (2004) Linking geochemical and hydrologic models of ground water in two Rocky Mountain catchments: Straight Creek, NM and Handcart Gulch, CO, in Geological Society of America, 2004 annual meeting.: Abstracts with Programs - Geological Society of America: Boulder, CO, p. 539.

Plumlee, G.S., Ludington, S., Caine, J.S., Bove, D.J., Holloway, J.M., Lowers, H.A., and Livo, K.E. (2004) Environmental geology of erosional scar areas developed above Climax-type molybedenite deposits in the Red River watershed, New Mexico, in Geological Society of America, 2004 annual meeting.: Abstracts with Programs - Geological Society of America: Boulder, CO, p. 465.

Nordstrom, D.K., 2005, A river on the edge Water quality in the Red River and the USGS background study, in Price, L.G., Bland, Douglas, McLemore, V.T., and Barker, J.M., eds., Mining in New Mexico, Decision-Makers Conference 2005, Taos region, New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, Socorro, New Mexico, 64-67.

Nordstrom, D.K., Verplanck, P.L., Naus, C.A., McCleskey, R.B., 2002, The Questa baseline and pre-mining ground-water quality investigation: preliminary data. [abs.]: Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs v.34, no. 6, p. 51.

Nordstrom, D.K. ,Verplanck, P.L., Naus, C.A., Plumlee, G.S., McCleskey, R.B., 2003 A baseline and pre-mining ground-water quality investigation at the Questa molybdenum mine site, New Mexico, USA. [abs.]: 7th International Conference on the Biogeochemistry of Trace Elements, Uppsala, Sweden, June 15-19, 2003 

 

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