Quantification of Trace-Element Loading in the Upper Tenmile Creek Drainage Basin near Rimini, Montana, September 2011

Scientific Investigations Report 2019-5126
Prepared in cooperation with the Montana Department of Environmental Quality
By:  and 



The principle sources of trace elements entering upper Tenmile Creek, Montana, during September 2011, four trace metals and the metalloid arsenic, were identified and quantified by combining and analyzing streamflow data determined from tracer injection with trace-element concentrations and related water-quality data determined from synoptic sampling. The study reach was along upper Tenmile Creek, beginning downstream from the city of Helena’s diversion and extending 5,020 feet downstream. Results from the 2011 study, completed by the U.S. Geological Survey in cooperation with the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, were compared to results from a similar study conducted in 1998 to assess the effectiveness of mine reclamation and remediation work to reduce trace-element loading to upper Tenmile Creek, which has been ongoing throughout the drainage basin.

Main-stem concentrations of most trace elements analyzed were generally greater in 1998 than in 2011. However, the State of Montana human-health criteria for total-recoverable cadmium and arsenic were exceeded in parts of upper Tenmile Creek, and concentrations of cadmium and zinc exceeded the acute aquatic-life criteria at all main-stem sites during both studies. Total-recoverable copper concentrations observed in 2011 exceeded the chronic aquatic-life criterion upstream from the Lee Mountain adit, whereas, in 1998, all sites exceeded the acute aquatic-life criteria.

Direct comparison of loads from the 1998 and 2011 tracer studies were complicated by the differences in hydrologic conditions. Streamflow in 1998 was about 10 percent of the 2011 streamflow. The Lee Mountain Mine and Susie Lode adit were identified as major contributors of trace elements to upper Tenmile Creek in both studies. However, trace-element loading from the Lee Mountain Mine area was substantially reduced between 1998 and 2011. Total-recoverable loads of all trace elements showed substantial loss in 1998 but increased in 2011 downstream from the Susie Lode adit to the end of the study reach. This reach was one of the primary sources of trace-element loading to upper Tenmile Creek in 2011. This difference indicated that the streambed may act as a sink or a source for trace elements, depending on hydrologic conditions.

Suggested Citation

Cleasby, T., and Eldridge, S.L.C., 2020, Quantification of trace element loading in the upper Tenmile Creek drainage basin near Rimini, Montana, September 2011: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2019–5126, 40 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/sir20195126.

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Methods
  • Quality Assurance/Quality Control
  • Quantification of Trace-Element Loading
  • Summary and Conclusions
  • References Cited
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Quantification of trace element loading in the upper Tenmile Creek drainage basin near Rimini, Montana, September 2011
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2019-5126
DOI 10.3133/sir20195126
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) WY-MT Water Science Center
Description Report: vii, 40 p.; Dataset
Country United States
State Montana
County Lewis and Clark County
City Rimini
Online Only (Y/N) Y
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