Contaminated Alluvial Ground Water in the Butte Summit Valley
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Ground water in alluvial sediments of upper Silver Bow Creek is chronically contaminated with heavy metals, including Cd, Cu, Fe, Mn, and Zn. Most of this contamination stems from slag, mill tailings, and waste rock from the Butte mining district that had been deposited along the ancestral Silver Bow Creek floodplain. Much of this mine waste is now buried by fill, topsoil, buildings, or parking lots. Although the pH values of most wells in the region are in the 5.5 to 7.0 range, a cluster of monitoring wells near the site of a former mill and smelter contain water that is strongly acidic (pH < 4.5), with extremely high dissolved metal concentrations (Cu up to 750 mg/L; Zn up to 490 mg/L). Ground water discharging from the area is currently collected by a subsurface French drain and conveyed to a treatment facility where lime is added to precipitate metals from solution.
KeywordsButte copper geochemistry ground water heavy metals Silver Bow Creek storm flow zinc
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