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United States Environmental Protection Agency
The Long-Term Impact of Metal Smelting Operations on Arsenic Availability in Urban Lakes of the South-Central Puget Sound Region
Sponsored by: University of Washington Superfund Research Program
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Presentation Overview:

The ASARCO smelter in Ruston, Washington, contaminated the south-central Puget Sound region with heavy metals, including arsenic and lead. Arsenic and lead distribution in surface sediments of 26 lakes is significantly correlated with atmospheric model predictions of contaminant deposition spatially, with concentrations reaching 208 mg/kg As and 1375 mg/kg Pb. The temporal distribution of these metals in sediment cores is consistent with the years of operation of the ASARCO smelter. In several lakes arsenic and lead levels are highest at the surface, suggesting ongoing inputs or redistribution of contaminants. With 83% of the lakes in the deposition zone having surface sediments exceeding published "probable effects concentrations" for arsenic and lead, this study provides evidence for possible ongoing environmental health concerns. Moreover, this study finds that arsenic is highly mobile in these urban lakes, with maximum dissolved arsenic concentrations proportional to surface sediment levels and reaching almost 90 ppb As. Current knowledge of the chemical, physical and biological factors affecting arsenic mobility in these lakes will be discussed, and initial data on biotic effects explored.

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