Fine-grained streambed sediment from the Yakima River Basin was sampled from 448 locations and analyzed for 45 elements. Anomalous major- and minor-element concentrations were based on baseline values established from element concentrations in streambed sediment in the basin. The largest number of anomalies occurred for antimony, arsenic, cerium, copper, and zinc; at least 10 percent of these element concentrations exceeded the threshold values of 0.7 mg/g (micrograms per gram), 8.5 mg/g, 57 mg/g, 40 mg/g, and 120 mg/g, respectively. Concentrations of arsenic as large as 31 and 61 mg/g occurred in streambed sediment formed from the pre-Tertiary metamorphic and intrusive rocks geologic unit and from the nonmarine sedimentary rocks geologic unit, respectively. These geologic units were probable sources of arsenic to smaller headwater streams; however, arsenic concentrations from these geologic sources rapidly attenuated downstream in the Yakima River. Geologic sources of arsenic were generally small in agricultural land-use areas; however, concentrations as large as 140 mg/g were found in samples of soils that were historically treated with the lead-arsenate pesticide. In addition, concentrations of lead, as large as 890 mg/g, occurred in these pesticide- treated soils. Streambed sediment formed from the pre-Tertiary metamorphic and intrusive rocks geologic unit also contained concentrations as large as 1,700 mg/g for chromium, 140 mg/g for cobalt, and 1,900 mg/g for nickel. Like arsenic, concentrations of chromium (in addition to mercury and nickel) were attenuated in the Yakima River. The application of zinc sulphate to orchards was probably responsible for concentrations of zinc as large as 150 mg/g in soils of and 180 mg/g in streambed sediment from the agricultural land-use area.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Surface-water-quality assessment of the Yakima River basin in Washington; analysis of major and minor elements in fine-grained streambed sediment, 1987
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