Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation


Geochemical Fingerprinting of Metals from Non-Ferrous Smelting Emissions within Lake Sediments Public Deposited

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  • The research presented in this thesis seeks to further our understanding of the geochemical signatures that can be used to trace and quantify non-ferrous smelting emission inputs into the environment. Strong evidence suggests that emissions from the non-ferrous smelter in Trail, BC are the primary source of metals deposited from the atmosphere within the region. As a result, we chose to use the upper Columbia River Valley as a study system. Metal concentrations and Pb isotope ratios were measured within sediment cores collected from two lakes (Middle Champion Lake, BC and Cedar Lake, WA) to better delimit the geochemical signatures of smelting emissions from the Trail smelter as they changed over time. Multiple geochemical tools (Pb isotopes, enrichment calculations, and unique elemental signatures) were used to identify the source of metals for the majority of both sediment cores. Lead isotopes were useful in fingerprinting smelting emissions and aligned closely with known mixtures of Pb-bearing ores smelted at Trail over time. Certainty of the Pb isotope fingerprinting was limited by the extent to which the Pb isotopic endmembers were known and constrained. Indium and Bi were highly enriched within the most modern 100 years of sediment relative to the sediment deposited before smelting began at Trail. In the more modern sediments, changes in the proportions of In to Zn are thought to reflect shifting emission compositions due to changes in ore sources and in smelting and refining processing technologies and efficiencies. Conclusions from this study indicate that utilization of multiple geochemical techniques in tandem is necessary to accurately identify non-ferrous smelting emissions within the environment, even in simple environmental systems such as the upper Columbia River Valley. Additionally, results from this study suggest that the Trail smelting operations have been the primary source of metals into the atmosphere of the upper Columbia River Valley since operations began around 1900. Both sediment cores are enriched in metals Zn, As, Cd, Pb, In, and Bi. Mass accumulation estimates suggest that lake sediments both north and south of the Trail smelting operations are sinks of considerable quantities of toxic metals.
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  • This work was supported by grants awarded from the Geological Society of America and from the Mazamas Mountaineering Center.
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  • Ongoing Research
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  • 2018-03-24 to 2018-03-26



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