Assessment of metal and trace element contamination in water, sediment, plants, macroinvertebrates, and fish in Tavasci Marsh, Tuzigoot National Monument, Arizona

Scientific Investigations Report 2014-5069
Prepared in cooperation with the National Park Service
By: , and 



Tavasci Marsh is a large freshwater marsh within the Tuzigoot National Monument in central Arizona. It is the largest freshwater marsh in Arizona that is unconnected to the Colorado River and is designated as an Important Bird Area by the Audubon Society. The marsh has been altered significantly by previous land use and the monument’s managers are evaluating the restoration of the marsh. In light of historical mining activities located near the marsh from the first half of the 20th century, evaluations of water, sediment, plant, and aquatic biota in the marsh were conducted. The evaluations were focused on nine metals and trace elements commonly associated with mining and other anthropogenic activities (As, Cd, Cr, Cu, Hg, Ni, Pb, Se, and Zn) together with isotopic analyses to understand the presence, sources and timing of water and sediment contaminants to the marsh and the occurrence in aquatic plants, dragonfly larvae, and fish.

Results of water analyses indicate that there were two distinct sources of water contributing to the marsh during the study: one from older high elevation recharge entering the marsh at Shea Spring (as well as a number of unnamed seeps and springs on the northeastern edge of the marsh) and the other from younger low elevation recharge or from Pecks Lake. Water concentrations for arsenic exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency primary drinking water standard of 10 μg/L at all sampling sites. Surface waters at Tavasci Marsh may contain conditions favorable for methylmercury production.

All surficial and core sediment samples exceeded or were within sample concentration variability of at least one threshold sediment quality guideline for As, Cd, Cr, Cu, Hg, Ni, Pb, and Zn. Several sediment sites were also above or were within sample concentration variability of severe or probable effect sediment quality guidelines for As, Cd, and Cu. Three sediment cores collected in the marsh have greater metal and trace element concentrations at depth for Bi, Cd, Cu, Hg, In, Pb, Sb, Sn, Te, and Zn. Radioisotope dating indicates that the elevated metal and trace element concentrations are associated with sediments deposited before 1963.

Arsenic concentration was greater in cattail roots compared with surrounding sediment at Tavasci Marsh. Concentrations of As, Ni, and Se from yellow bullhead catfish (Ameiurus natalis) in Tavasci Marsh exceeded the 75th percentile of several other regional studies. Mercury concentration in dragonfly larvae and fish from Tavasci Marsh were similar to or greater than in Tavasci Marsh sediment. Future work includes a biologic risk assessment utilizing the data collected in this study to provide the monument management with additional information for their restoration plan.

Study Area

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Assessment of metal and trace element contamination in water, sediment, plants, macroinvertebrates, and fish in Tavasci Marsh, Tuzigoot National Monument, Arizona
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2014-5069
DOI 10.3133/sir20145069
Year Published 2014
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Arizona Water Science Center, National Research Program - Western Branch, Utah Water Science Center
Description Report: viii, 72 p.; Appendixes A-D
Country United States
State Arizona
Other Geospatial Tavasci Marsh, Tuzigoot National Monument
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
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