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Perchlorate and selected metals in water and soil within Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota, 2011–15

Scientific Investigations Report 2016-5030

Prepared in cooperation with the National Park Service and National Water Quality Program–National Park Service Water Quality Partnership
By:
and
https://doi.org/10.3133/sir20165030

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Abstract

Mount Rushmore National Memorial is located in the east-central part of the Black Hills area of South Dakota and is challenged to provide drinking water to about 3 million annual visitors and year-round park personnel. An environmental concern to water resources within Mount Rushmore National Memorial has been the annual aerial fireworks display at the memorial for the Independence Day holiday during 1998–2009. A major concern of park management is the contamination of groundwater and surface water by perchlorate, which is used as an oxidizing agent in firework displays. A study by the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the National Park Service, was completed to characterize the occurrence of perchlorate and selected metals (constituents commonly associated with fireworks) in groundwater and surface water within and adjacent to Mount Rushmore National Memorial during 2011–15. Concentrations of perchlorate and metals in 106 water samples (collected from 6 groundwater sites and 14 surface-water sites) and 11 soil samples (collected from 11 soil sites) are reported.

Within the Mount Rushmore National Memorial boundary, perchlorate concentrations were greatest in the Lafferty Gulch drainage basin, ranging from less than 0.20 to 38 micrograms per liter (μg/L) in groundwater samples and from 2.2 to 54 μg/L in surface-water samples. Sites within the Starling Gulch drainage basin also had some evidence of perchlorate contamination, with concentrations ranging from 0.61 to 19 μg/L. All groundwater and surface-water samples within the unnamed tributary to Grizzly Bear Creek drainage basin and reference sites outside the park boundary had concentrations less than 0.20 μg/L. Perchlorate concentrations in samples collected at the 200-foot-deep production well (Well 1) ranged from 17 to 38 μg/L with a median of 23 μg/L, whereas perchlorate concentrations in samples from the 500-foot-deep production well (Well 2) ranged from 2.1 to 17 μg/L, with a median of 6.1 μg/L. Perchlorate concentrations in samples of the treated groundwater were similar to the concentrations from Well 1, which was the predominant source of the water supply at Mount Rushmore National Memorial during the study period (2011–15). Springflow upstream from the production wells in the West Fork Lafferty Gulch drainage had the greatest perchlorate concentrations, ranging from 21 to 54 μg/L. The groundwater site within Lafferty Gulch drainage basin but downstream from the park boundary also had a perchlorate concentration less than 0.20 μg/L in the one sample collected at the site. Water samples collected at reference sites generally had concentrations of metals within the same range of those sites within the Mount Rushmore National Memorial boundary, presenting little evidence of metal contamination due to anthropogenic factors within the park boundary. Soil samples were collected near most water sampling sites and within the Hall of Records Canyon where fireworks were launched. Perchlorate concentrations in soil were greatest in the West Fork Lafferty Gulch drainage and Hall of Records Canyon, which are topographically higher than the two groundwater wells.

The perchlorate concentrations in groundwater and surface water within Lafferty Gulch drainage basin during 2011–15 were greater than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Interim Drinking Water Health Advisory benchmark of 15 μg/L. The perchlorate concentrations in the Mount Rushmore water supply relative to this benchmark are of concern; however, this health advisory is based on the assumption that consumers are using the supply as their primary water source and currently is not a regulated standard. The groundwater system at West Fork Lafferty Gulch is highly susceptible to contamination by way of recharge and is isolated from downstream movement by an intrusive body acting as a dam, which may explain why a contamination problem is not likely to disappear or disperse, as could happen in larger aquifer systems. The observed deposition of firework debris within Lafferty Gulch drainage basin coupled with the lack of alternative perchlorate sources indicates that past firework displays are the most probable source of perchlorate contamination.

Suggested Citation

Hoogestraat, G.K., and Rowe, B.L., 2016, Perchlorate and selected metals in water and soil within Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota, 2011–15: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2016–5030, 29 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/sir20165030.

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Methods
  • Perchlorate and Metal Occurrence at Mount Rushmore National Memorial
  • Summary and Conclusions
  • References Cited
  • Appendix 1

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Perchlorate and selected metals in water and soil within Mount Rushmore National Memorial, South Dakota, 2011–15
Series title:
Scientific Investigations Report
Series number:
2016-5030
DOI:
10.3133/sir20165030
Year Published:
2016
Language:
English
Publisher:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Reston, VA
Contributing office(s):
South Dakota Water Science Center
Description:
vi, 29 p.
Country:
United States
State:
South Dakota
Other Geospatial:
Mt. Rushmore
Online Only (Y/N):
Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N):
Y