Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2011ME235B

Release of Metals to Groundwater from Ultramafic Rocks on Deer Isle, Maine

Institute: Maine
Year Established: 2011 Start Date: 2011-05-01 End Date: 2012-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $9,083 Total Non-Federal Funds: $59,650

Principal Investigators: Amanda Olsen

Abstract: Serpentinites are ultramafic rocks that have high concentrations of heavy metals including Ni, Cr, Co, and Mn and are limited in the nutrients potassium, phosphorus, and molybdenum. Serpentinites generally have low porosity; therefore, groundwaters in contact with serpentinites are exposed to relatively little mineral surface area. However, mining exposes fresh rock, drastically increasing the surface area which available for water-rock interactions. This increased surface area may lead to changes in water quality that may be detrimental to human health. The goal of this study is to understand if mining of ultramafic rock at Pine Hill Quarry on Little Deer Isle in Maine accelerates the rate of heavy metal release to surface and groundwaters. To do this, we propose to: 1. Examine the rate of metal release from both the serpentinite bedrock and tailings. 2. Examine the rate of metal release at a nearby, undisturbed site consisting of serpentinite bedrock. 3. Quantify the reactive surface area of the minerals in contact with natural waters at each site. 4. Analyze both consumer well water and surface water at sites down-gradient to see if metals are being transported. 5. Determine if levels of heavy metals at either site are above EPA recommended maximum contaminant levels or secondary drinking water regulations.