Element concentrations in growth rings of trees near an abandoned wood-preserving plant site at Jackson, Tennessee

Water-Resources Investigations Report 93-4223




Multielement analysis was performed on individual annual rings of trees growing at and near an abandoned wood-preserving plant site in Jackson, Tennessee, that operated from the early 1930's until 1981. Numerous organic compounds associated with the wood-preserving process have been detected in soils, ground water, and surface water within much of the site. Tree-ring investigations were conducted prior to investigations of ground water downgradient from the site to determine if trees preserved an areal and temporal record of contaminant movement into offsite areas. Increment cores were collected from trees on the abandoned plant site, in downgradient areas west and south of the site, and at two locations presumably unaffected by contamination from the site. Multielement analysis by proton-induced X-ray emission was performed on 5 to 15 individual growth rings from each of 34 trees that ranged in age from about 5 to 50 years. Concentrations of 16 elements were evaluated by analyzing average concentrations within the 1987, 1989, and 1990 rings of all trees; analyzing element-concentration trends along entire core radii; and analyzing element correlations between and among trees. Concentrations of some nutrients and trace metals were elevated in the outermost sapwood rings of some trees that grow south and southwest of the most contaminated part of the site; small trees on the main part of the site and larger trees to the west generally contained fewer rings with elevated concentrations, particularly of trace metals. Concentrations of several elements elevated in tree rings also were elevated in water samples collected from the reach of a stream that flows near the southwestern part of the site. Multielement analysis of each ring of a willow growing along the southern boundary of the site detected extremely large concentrations of chromium, nickel, and iron in rings that formed in 1986 and thereafter. Relative increases in the concentrations of these elements also were detected in a silver maple growing next to the willow, but not in another silver maple growing 150 meters farther to the west. An oak growing in the southwestern part of the study area contained large concentrations of calcium and several trace elements, and some trees south of the abandoned site contained large concentrations of phosphorus or potassium. Concentrations of trace metals and nutrients in some trees may be related to wood-preserving activities at the site and possibly to remedial efforts conducted during the early to mid 1980's.However, the possibility cannot be discounted that large concentrations of some elements are from sources other than the wood-preserving facility, or in part from flooding of the South Fork Forked Deer River.

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Element concentrations in growth rings of trees near an abandoned wood-preserving plant site at Jackson, Tennessee
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Water-Resources Investigations Report
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U.S. Geological Survey ; U.S.G.S. Earth Science Information Center, Open-File Reports Section [distributor],
iv, 68 p. :ill., maps ;28 cm.