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U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2008-1381

Prepared in cooperation with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management

Environmental Impact of the Contact and Sonoma Mercury Mines on Water, Sediment, and Biota in Anna Belcher and Little Sulphur Creek Watersheds, Sonoma County, California

By James J. Rytuba, Roger L. Hothem, Jason T. May, Christopher S. Kim, David Lawler, and Daniel Goldstein

2009

Abstract

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The Contact and Sonoma mercury (Hg) deposits are among the youngest Hg deposits in the Coast Range Hg mineral belt and are located in the western part of the Clear Lake volcanic field in Sonoma County, California. The mine workings and tailings are located in the headwaters of Anna Belcher Creek, which is a tributary to Little Sulphur Creek. The Contact Hg mine produced about 1,000 flasks of Hg, and the Sonoma mine produced considerably less. Waste rock and tailings eroded from the Contact and Sonoma mines have contributed Hg-enriched mine waste material to the headwaters of Anna Belcher Creek. The mines are located on federal land managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (USBLM). The USBLM requested that the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) measure and characterize Hg and other geochemical constituents in tailings, sediment, water, and biota at the Contact and Sonoma mines and in Anna Belcher and Little Sulphur Creeks. This report is made in response to the USBLM request, the lead agency mandated to conduct a Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) - Removal Site Investigation (RSI). The RSI applies to removal of Hg-contaminated mine waste from the Contact and Sonoma mines as a means of reducing Hg transport to Anna Belcher and Little Sulphur Creeks.

This report summarizes data obtained from field sampling of mine tailings, waste rock, sediment, and water at the Contact and Sonoma mines that was initiated on April 20 during a storm event, and on June 19, 2001. Further sampling of water, sediment, and biota in a pond and tributaries that drain from the mine area was completed on April 1, 2003. Our results permit a preliminary assessment of the mining sources of Hg and associated chemical constituents that could elevate levels of monomethyl Hg (MMeHg) in tributaries and biota that are impacted by historic mining.

Version 1.0

Posted March 23, 2009
Revised April 28, 2009

For additional information contact:
Jim Rytuba

Western Mineral Resources Science Center


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Suggested citation:

Rytuba, J.J., Hothem, R.L., May, J.T., Kim, C.S., Lawler, David, and Goldstein, D., 2009, Environmental impact of the Contact and Sonoma mercury mines on water, sediment, and biota in Anna Belcher and Little Sulphur Creek watersheds, Sonoma County, California: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2008-1381, 76 p. [http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2008-1381/].



Contents

Introduction

Sample Locations and Methods

Analytical Methods

Results

Conclusions

Acknowlegments

References Cited

Appendixes 1 and 2


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