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Scientific Investigations Report 2008-5040

Publications Warehouse SIR 2008-5040

Prepared in cooperation with the National Park Service, Western Arctic National Parklands, Kotzebue, Alaska

Elements in Mud and Snow in the Vicinity of the DeLong Mountain Regional Transportation System Road, Red Dog Mine, and Cape Krusenstern National Monument, Alaska, 2005–06

By William G. Brumbaugh and Thomas W. May

SIR 2008-5040 Contents | Citation


A small number of mud, road bed soil, and snow samples were collected in 2005 and 2006 to assess metal concentrations and loadings to areas adjacent to the DeLong Mountain Regional Transportation System (DMTS) road in northwest Alaska. The DMTS road is used by large trucks to transport lead and zinc concentrates from Red Dog Mine to the shipping facility at Red Dog Port; it traverses 32 kilometers of land in Cape Krusenstern National Monument (CAKR). Mud collected in the summer of 2005 from wheel-wells of two passenger vehicles used for transport between Red Dog Mine and the port facility were enriched in cadmium, lead, and zinc by factors of about 200 to 800 as compared with mud collected from a vehicle stationed in Kotzebue, Alaska, whereas DMTS road bed soil samples were enriched by factors of 6 to 12. Thus, as of 2005, dispersal of mine ore wastes or concentrates by vehicles appeared to remain a potential source of metals along the DMTS road.

Compared to snow samples obtained near a gravel road located near Kotzebue, Alaska, metal loadings estimated from individual snow samples collected in CAKR in April 2006 near three creeks, 13 to 50 meters from the road, were greater by factors of 13 to 316 for cadmium, 28 to 589 for lead, and 8 to 195 for zinc. When averaged for all three creek locations, mean loadings of cadmium, lead, and zinc calculated from snow samples collected at a nominal distance of 15 meters to the north of the road were 0.63, 34, and 89 milligrams of metal per square meter, respectively. Variability of particulate and metal loadings between individual samples and the three creek locations probably was affected by localized meteorological conditions and micro-topography on the snow drift and scour patterns, but road orientation on attainable truck speeds also might have been a factor. Results indicated that the “port effect”, previously attributed to fugitive metal-enriched dusts stemming from concentrate transfer operations at the port facility, was not necessarily an important factor affecting spatial differences of metals deposition in snow along the road in CAKR during winter 2005–06.

The average metal content of particulates in 2005–06 snow samples was slightly less than that of snow samples collected by the U.S. Geological Survey in CAKR at three near-road locations in April 2003. Mean metals concentrations in 2006 snow particulates were about three times greater than in the road bed soils that were sampled in 2005; however, the fraction of annual metals loadings occurring in winter as compared to the remainder of the year was not readily determined by these data. Although procedures have been implemented in recent years to reduce the quantities of metal-enriched fugitive dusts, particulates dispersed near the road during the winter of 2005–06 were enriched in metals and these particulates contributed considerable metal loadings to the nearby terrain.

Posted May 2008

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Purpose and Scope


Soil/Mud Sampling

Snow Sampling

Laboratory Procedures for Soil/Mud

Laboratory Procedures for Snow

Instrumental Analysis and Data Reporting

Quality-Control Results

Soil/Mud, Semi-Quantitative Analysis

Soil/Mud, Total Mercury

Soil/Mud, Quantitative Analysis

Snow, Semi-Quantitative Analysis

Snow, Quantitative Analysis

Results and Discussion

Soil and Mud Samples

Snow Samples

Comparison to Recent Studies

Methodology Assessment

Summary and Conclusions


References Cited

Appendixes A–C


Brumbaugh, W.G., and May, T.W., 2008, Elements in mud and snow in the vicinity of the DeLong Mountain Regional Transportation System Road, Red Dog Mine, and Cape Krusenstern National Monument, Alaska, 2005–06, U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2008–5040, 30 p.

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