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Arsenic Contamination from Hard Rock Mining -- Whitewood Creek-Belle Fourche River, South Dakota

A closeup of contaminated sediments taken (circa 1980s) at the mouth of Whitewood Creek. Layers of contaminated sediments (reddish brown) alternating with normal sediments (gray) can be seen. Edges of the contaminated sediments have been oxidized, as evidenced by the thin lighter bands. USGS scientists conducted studies to characterize the physical and chemical properties of the sediment - see caption below
A closeup of contaminated sediments taken (circa 1980s) at the mouth of Whitewood Creek. Layers of contaminated sediments (reddish brown) alternating with normal sediments (gray) can be seen. Edges of the contaminated sediments have been oxidized, as evidenced by the thin lighter bands. USGS scientists conducted studies to characterize the physical and chemical properties of the sediment

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Mining wastes from the processing of gold ore were deposited in Whitewood Creek, South Dakota, for more than 100 years. About 100 million tons of finely ground gold-mill tailings, containing arsenic and other trace elements, mixed with natural sediments and were deposited in channels and flood plains downstream. This study, now concluded, characterized the downstream dispersal of contaminants through water movement, sediment transport, transfer of contaminants from sediments to water, and uptake of contaminants by aquatic organisms. Information gathered helped evaluate the long-term threat of the contaminants to the stream ecosystem and to downstream water supplies.

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