Activity of Microorganisms in Acid Mine Water I. Influence of Acid Water on Aerobic Heterotrophs of a Normal Stream


Comparison of microbial content of acid-contaminated and nonacid-contaminated streams from the same geographical area indicated that nonacid streams contained relatively low numbers of acid-tolerant heterotrophic microorganisms. The acid-tolerant aerobes survived when acid entered the stream and actually increased in number to about 2 × 103 per ml until the pH approached 3.0. The organisms then represented the heterotrophic aerobic microflora of the streams comprised of a mixture of mine drainage and nonacid water. A stream which was entirely acid drainage did not have a similar microflora. Most gram-positive aerobic and anaerobic bacteria died out very rapidly in acidic water, and they comprised a very small percentage of the microbial population of the streams examined. Iron- and sulfur-oxidizing autotrophic bacteria were present wherever mine water entered a stream system. The sulfur-oxidizing bacteria predominated over iron oxidizers. Ecological data from the field were verified by laboratory experiments designed to simulate stream conditions.

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