Concerns have been expressed that dust from the minerals processing facilities at Karumba Queensland Australia have resulted in elevated lead (Pb) concentrations in rain water tanks. The ores derived from the Century mine some 304 km from the port. High precision Pb isotopic measurements on environmental samples have been undertaken to evaluate the source of Pb in rainwaters and acid digests from roof wipes and gutter wipes. There does not appear to be any relationship between sample location and the processing facility but samples from the area subject to the prevailing winds show the highest contribution of Century Pb. All gutter wipes (82 to 1270 µg Pb/wipe) have contributions of Century ore ranging from 87% to 96%. The contribution of Century ore to five roof wipes (22 to 88 µg Pb/wipe) ranges from 89% to 97% and in the other two samples there is a mix of Century and Broken Hill Pb. Three of the seven rainwater have contributions of Century ore Pb ranging from 33% to 75%. Two of the other four rainwater samples have the highest water Pb concentrations of 88 and 100 µg/L and their isotopic data show Broken Hill Pb contributions ranging from 77% to 80%. The source of the Broken Hill Pb is probably from the galvanized roofing material and/or brass fittings in the rainwater tanks. The discrimination between various sources is only detectable using high precision 204
Pb-based isotopic ratios and not the now common inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS ) data presentations of the higher abundance isotopes 208
Pb and 206
Pb. Isotopic results for the waters demonstrate that apportioning blame where there is an obvious point source may not always be the correct conclusion. Nevertheless the isotopic data for the gutter wipes indicates that there was widespread contamination from the processing facilities throughout the town.
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