Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2018

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


Environmental Studies

First Advisor

Joseph Ryan

Second Advisor

Jefferey Writer

Third Advisor

Dale Miller


This study evaluates the state of stream ecosystem health in two creeks in northwestern Boulder County, Colorado. The topic of this research was to evaluate the remediation efforts by the Environmental Protection Agency and local group initiatives of the Captain Jack Mill Superfund site located on Lefthand Creek and the Burlington Mine on Little James Creek. This study evaluated the concentrations of metals present in stream biota, including benthic macroinvertebrates, streambed sediment, and water. The research question of this study sought to understand the effectiveness of the remediation efforts after the major flood event of 2013 in this area by comparing current 2018 research with data from a pre-remediation study conducted in 2004. The hypothesis of this study is that metal concentrations in this area have either remained constant or increased due to the 2013 flood disturbing the area and affecting the metal concentrations in the stream biota in this watershed. The hypothesis was tested by comparing pre-remediation and post-remediation data. The results of this study indicated that levels of metals were overall higher in benthic macroinvertebrates and in the water in Lefthand Creek than the data from 2004 Bautts (2006). These results support the idea that water and benthic macroinvertebrates represent the short-term state of the stream in the years since the 2013 flood. In Little James Creek, metal concentrations were higher in benthic macroinvertebrates and higher in sediment for the metal lead than the data from 2004. These results suggest that remediation efforts were either not effective or that the 2013 flood affected this area by washing built-up sediments downstream. The recommendations of this study include the need for more remediation of both creeks in the future. Without any post-remediation data prior to the 2013 flood, it is hard to determine to what extent the flood affected this watershed. However, this study nonetheless presents the current state of this watershed and is another baseline study to motivate further remediation efforts.