The purpose of this report is to present estimated daily and annual loads of suspended sediment and selected trace elements for water years 2004-07 at two sites upstream and one site downstream from Milltown Reservoir. Milltown Reservoir is a National Priorities List Superfund site in the upper Clark Fork basin of western Montana where sediments enriched in trace elements from historical mining and ore processing have been deposited since the construction of Milltown Dam in 1907. The estimated loads were used to quantify annual net gains and losses (mass balance) of suspended sediment and trace elements within Milltown Reservoir before and after June 1, 2006, which was the start of Stage 1 of a permanent drawdown of the reservoir in preparation for removal of Milltown Dam. This study was done in cooperation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Daily loads of suspended sediment were estimated for water years 2004-07 by using either high-frequency sampling as part of daily sediment monitoring or regression equations relating suspended-sediment discharge to streamflow. Daily loads of unfiltered-recoverable arsenic, cadmium, copper, iron, lead, manganese, and zinc were estimated by using regression equations relating trace-element discharge to suspended-sediment discharge. Regression equations were developed from data for eriodic water-quality samples collected during water years 2004-07. The equations were applied to daily records of either streamflow or suspended-sediment discharge to produce estimated daily loads.
Variations in daily suspended-sediment and trace-element loads generally coincided with variations in streamflow. For most of the period before June 1, 2006, differences in daily loads transported to and from Milltown Reservoir were minor or indicated small amounts of deposition; however, losses of suspended sediment and trace elements from the reservoir occurred during temporary drawdowns in July-August 2004 and October-December 2005. After the start of Stage 1 of the permanent drawdown on June 1, 2006, losses of suspended sediment and trace elements from the reservoir persisted for all streamflow conditions during the entire interval of the Stage 1 drawdown (June 1, 2006-September 30, 2007) within the study period.
Estimated daily loads of suspended sediment and trace elements were summed for each year to produce estimated annual loads used to determine the annual net gains (deposition) or losses (erosion) of each constituent within Milltown Reservoir during water years 2004-07. During water year 2004, there was an annual net gain of suspended sediment in the reservoir. The annual net gains and losses of trace elements were inconsistent in water year 2004, with gains occurring for arsenic ad iron, but losses occurring for cadmium, copper, lead, manganese, and zinc. In water year 2005, there were annual net gains of suspended sediment and all the trace elements within the reservoir. In water year 2006, there were annual net losses of all constituents from the reservoir, likely as the result of sediment erosion from the reservoir during both a temporary drawdown in October-December 2005 and Stage 1 of the permanent drawdown that continued after June 1, 2006. In water year 2007, when the Stage 1 drawdown was in effect for the entire year, there were large annual net losses of suspended sediment and trace elements from the reservoir. The annual net losses of constituents from Milltown Reservoir in water year 2007 were the largest of any year during the 2004-07 study period. In water year 2007, the annual net loss of suspended sediment from the reservoir was 130,000 tons, which was more than double (about 222 percent) the combined inflow to the reservoir. The largest annual net losses of trace elements in water year 2007, in percent of the combined inflow to the reservoir, occurred for cadmium, copper, lead, and zinc-about 190 percent for cadmium, 170 percent for copper, 150 percent for lead, and 238 p
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USGS Numbered Series
Estimated Loads of Suspended Sediment and Selected Trace Elements Transported through Milltown Reservoir in the Upper Clark Fork Basin, Montana, Water Years 2004-07