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Composition, distribution, and hydrologic effects of contaminated sediments resulting from the discharge of gold milling wastes to Whitewood Creek at Lead and Deadwood, South Dakota

Water-Resources Investigations Report 87-4051

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Abstract

The Whitewood Creek-Belle Fourche-Cheyenne River stream system in western South Dakota has been extensively contaminated by the discharge to Whitewood Creek of about 100 million tons of mill tailings from gold-mining operations. The resulting contaminated sediments contain unusually large concentrations of arsenic, as much as 11,000 micrograms/g, derived from the mineral arsenopyrite, as well as potentially toxic constituents derived from the ore-body minerals or from the milling processes. Because of the anomalous arsenic concentrations associated with the contamination, arsenic was used as an indicator for a geochemically based, random, sediment-sampling program. Arsenic concentrations in shallow, contaminated sediments along the flood plains of the streams were from 1 to 3 orders of magnitude larger than arsenic concentrations in uncontaminated sediments in about 75% of the flood plains of Whitewood Creek and the Belle Fourche River. Appreciable surface-water contamination resulting from the contaminated sediments is confined to Whitewood Creek and a reach of the Belle Fourche River downstream from the mouth of Whitewood Creek. In Whitewood Creek , dissolved-arsenic concentrations vary from about 20 to 80 microgram/L during the year in response to variations in groundwater inflow and dilution, whereas total-recoverable-arsenic concentrations vary from about 20 to 8 ,000 micrograms/L during short periods in response to rapid changes in suspended-sediment concentration. Contamination of the alluvial aquifer along the stream system is limited to areas in direct contact with large deposits of contaminated sediments. Within the aquifer, arsenic concentrations are thought to be controlled by sorption-desorption on metallic hydroxides. (USGS)

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Composition, distribution, and hydrologic effects of contaminated sediments resulting from the discharge of gold milling wastes to Whitewood Creek at Lead and Deadwood, South Dakota
Series title:
Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number:
87-4051
Edition:
-
Year Published:
1989
Language:
ENGLISH
Publisher:
Dept. of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey ; Books and Open-File Reports, [distributor],
Description:
vii, 76 p. :ill. ;28 cm.