Ryan PlathFollow


Senior Inquiry

Document Type

Student Paper

Publication Date

Spring 5-1-2015


Environmental Monitoring | Geochemistry | Geology

Description, Abstract, or Artist's Statement

The Bautsch-Gray zinc and lead mine, near Galena, IL, was in operation from the early 1900s until closing in 1975. The mine’s tailings pile has documented elevated lead and zinc concentrations in the surface materials surrounding the site. Numerous floods have caused contaminated sediment to migrate off the mine tailings pile, across Blackjack Road and into an outwash basin, and towards Smallpox Creek. Since this site was designated an EPA priority list Superfund site in 2010, the EPA has conducted numerous remediation efforts. This study attempts to develop a better understanding of the contamination within the soils of the outwash basin down-gradient of the mine as well as within the sediment bedload and vegetation of Smallpox Creek. Thirty-eight samples (mine tailings, soil, stream bedload sediment and algae) were collected, using a shovel or garden trowel, throughout this area and analyzed for lead and zinc contamination using X-ray fluorescence spectrometry. Samples from both the outwash basin and Smallpox Creek had concentrations of lead and zinc in excess of EPA limits for soils near a Superfund site. Excluding six samples from the mine tailings that served as a baseline for contamination levels in mine tailing sediments, 17 samples exceeded the lead contamination limit of 400 ppm for soils near a Superfund site and 19 samples exceeded the zinc contamination limit of 7500 ppm for soils near a Superfunds site. The highest concentrations of lead and zinc were 4,539 ppm and 94,537 ppm respectively. Though there have been mitigation efforts to remove contamination from the outwash area, these results indicate that there is still more work to be done. High concentrations of lead and zinc in the outwash basin indicate that Smallpox Creek is susceptible to continued contamination from this site.