Lead and zinc mining was booming in the early 1900s in and near Joplin, Missouri; a town within the Tri-State Mining District, USA. After the ore became depleted, mining companies moved out, leaving a profoundly disturbed land. Presently, over 90% of the land has been remediated. We collected sediment samples along two creeks flowing through the historically contaminated area that have been identified as major contributors of metals to downstream reservoirs, Center Creek (14 samples) and Turkey Creek (30 samples). Sediment metal content was determined by aqua regia
extraction, the potentially bioavailable fraction by 0.11 M acetic acid extraction, and toxicity by ΣPEC-QCd,Pb,Zn
. Zinc and lead content in sediments were high in both creeks notwithstanding remediation actions; e.g., median concentrations of 521 mg/kg Pb and 5425 mg/kg Zn in Center Creek, corresponding to 19 and 52 times the background concentration. The metals’ distribution followed no discernible pattern downstream. The potentially bioavailable fraction varied between 0.36% (Pb, Center Creek) and 4.96% (Zn, Turkey Creek). High toxicity was found in 40% of the samples in Turkey Creek and 78.5% of the samples in Center Creek. While this level of toxicity would likely affect aquatic organisms, its limited mobility under alkaline conditions suggests a lesser threat to humans. On the other hand, this high toxicity will likely persist in sediments for at least a few decades, based on their high metal content and low mobility.
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