Sediment cores were collected from six locations in Lake Roosevelt to determine the vertical distributions of trace-element concentrations in the accumulated sediments of Lake Roosevelt. Elevated concentrations of arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, mercury, and zinc occurred throughout much of the accumulated sediments. Concentrations varied greatly within the sediment core profiles, often covering a range of 5 to 10 fold. Trace-element concentrations typically were largest below the surficial sediments in the lower one-half of each profile, with generally decreasing concentrations from the 1964 horizon to the surface of the core. The trace-element profiles reflect changes in historical discharges of trace elements to the Columbia River by an upstream smelter.
All samples analyzed exceeded clean-up guidelines adopted by the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation for cadmium, lead, and zinc and more than 70 percent of the samples exceeded cleanup guidelines for mercury, arsenic, and copper. Although 100 percent of the samples exceeded sediment guidelines for cadmium, lead, and zinc, surficial concentrations of arsenic, copper, and mercury in some cores were less than the sediment-quality guidelines. With the exception of copper, the trace-element profiles of the five cores collected along the pre-reservoir Columbia River channel typically showed trends of decreasing concentrations in sediments deposited after the 1964 time horizon. The decreasing concentrations of trace elements in the upper half of cores from along the pre-reservoir Columbia River showed a pattern of decreasing concentrations similar to reductions in trace-element loading in liquid effluent from an upstream smelter. Except for arsenic, trace-element concentrations typically were smaller at downstream reservoir locations along the pre-reservoir Columbia River. Trace-element concentration in sediments from the Spokane Arm of the reservoir showed distinct differences compared to the similarities observed in cores from along the pre-reservoir Columbia River.
Particles of slag, which have physical and chemical characteristics of slag discharged to the Columbia River by a lead-zinc smelter upstream of the reservoir at Trail, British Columbia, were found in sediments of Lake Roosevelt. Slag particles are more common in the upstream reaches of the reservoir. The chemical composition of the interior matrix of slag collected from Lake Roosevelt closely approximated the reported elemental concentrations of fresh smelter slag, although evidence of slag weathering was observed. Exfoliation flakes were observed on the surface of weathered slag particles isolated from the core sediments. The concentrations of zinc on the exposed surface of slag grains were smaller than concentrations on interior surfaces. Weathering rinds also were observed in the cross section of weathered slag grains, indicating that the glassy slag material was undergoing hydration and chemical weathering.
Trace elements observed in accumulated sediments in the middle and lower reaches of the reservoir are more likely due to the input from liquid effluent discharges compared to slag discharges from the upstream smelter.