Estimation of selenium loads entering the south arm of Great Salt Lake, Utah, from May 2006 through March 2008

Scientific Investigations Report 2008-5069

Prepared in cooperation with the Utah Department of Environmental Quality/Division of Water Quality, Utah Department of Natural Resources/Division of Wildlife Resources, and the University of Utah
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Discharge and water-quality data collected from six streamflow-gaging stations were used in combination with the LOADEST software to provide an estimate of total (dissolved + particulate) selenium (Se) load to the south arm of Great Salt Lake (GSL) from May 2006 through March 2008. Total estimated Se load to GSL during this time period was 2,370 kilograms (kg). The 12-month estimated Se load to GSL for May 1, 2006, to April 30, 2007, was 1,560 kg. During the 23-month monitoring period, inflows from the Kennecott Utah Copper Corporation (KUCC) Drain and Bear River outflow contributed equally to the largest proportion of total Se load to GSL, accounting for 49 percent of the total Se load. Five instantaneous discharge measurements at three sites along the railroad causeway indicate a consistent net loss of Se mass from the south arm to the north arm of GSL (mean = 2.4 kg/day, n = 5). Application of the average daily loss rate equates to annual Se loss rate to the north arm of 880 kg (56 percent of the annual Se input to the south arm). The majority of Se in water entering GSL is in the dissolved (less than 0.45 micron) state and ranges in concentration from 0.06 to 35.7 micrograms per liter (ug/L). Particulate Se concentration ranged from less than 0.05 to 2.5 ug/L. Except for the KUCC Drain streamflow-gaging station, dissolved (less than 0.45 um) inflow samples contain an average of 21 percent selenite (SeO32-) during two sampling events (May 2006 and 2007). Selenium concentration in water samples collected from four monitoring sites within GSL during May 2006 through August 2007 were used to understand how the cumulative Se load was being processed by various biogeochemical processes within the lake. On the basis of the Mann-Kendall test results, changes in dissolved Se concentration at the four monitoring sites indicate a statistically significant (90-percent confidence interval) upward trend in Se concentration over the 16-month monitoring period. Furthermore, the upward trend at three of the four GSL sites also was significant at the 95-percent confidence interval. Given the large amount of Se removal from GSL of greater than 1,900 kg/year by gaseous flux and permanent sedimentation, the observed increase in both dissolved (less than 0.45 micron) and total (dissolved + particulate) Se in the open-water monitoring sites indicates additional, unquantified source(s) of Se are contributing substantial masses of Se load to the south arm of GSL. Potential source(s) of this unmeasured Se load could include (1) Se loads entering GSL from unmeasured surface inflows; (2) ground-water discharge to GSL; (3) wind-blown dust that is deposited directly on the lake surface; (4) wet and dry atmospheric deposition falling directly on the lake surface; and (5) lake sediment pore-water diffusion into the overlying water column. Electrical resistivity surveys in the south part of GSL indicate areas of potential ground-water discharge to the open water of GSL and elevated (exceeding 10,000 ug/L) Se concentrations have been previously measured in ground water within 1.6 kilometers of the south shore of GSL.

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Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Estimation of selenium loads entering the south arm of Great Salt Lake, Utah, from May 2006 through March 2008
Series title:
Scientific Investigations Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Reston, VA
Contributing office(s):
WY-MT Water Science Center, Utah Water Science Center
Report: vi, 41 p.; Appendix A (ZIP file)
Time Range Start:
Time Range End:
United States
Other Geospatial:
Great Salt Lake
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