Investigation Of Acid Production, Leaching, And Transport Of Dissolved Metals At An Abandoned Sulfide Tailings Impoundment: Monitoring And Physical Properties
Description:Researchers at the U.S. Bureau of Mines conducted a long-term groundwater monitoring and site characterization program at an abandoned 10-ha, acid-producing, copper-gold tailings impoundment in north-central Washington State. The purpose was to investigate contaminant release and transport, and attenuation mechanisms in the tailings, sediments below the tailings, and gravels downgradient of the impoundment. This report summarizes the monitoring results and physical properties of the tailings, the sediments below the tailings, and the groundwater system associated with the tailings. Water samples from the vadose and saturated zones of the impoundment were analyzed for 15 constituents. Concentrations of the same constituents were determined in water samples up to 3 m beneath the impoundment and in the shallow colluvium and deep bedrock at 76, 335, and 550 m downgradient and 168 m upgradient. Constituent concentrations within the tailings are quite variable and are influenced by pH, depth of oxidation, grain-size differential (surface area), hydraulic gradient, groundwater mixing, and the presence of hardpan layers, carbonaceous material, and organic matter. Most of the metal constituents decreased to background or near-background concentrations in the farthest downgradient well.
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