Occurrence and Distribution of Trace Elements in Snow, Streams, and Streambed Sediments, Cape Krusenstern National Monument, Alaska, 2002-2003

By Timothy P. Brabets

Scientific Investigations Report 2004-5229

Prepared in cooperation with the National Park Service

This report is also available as a pdf.


Cape Krusenstern National Monument is located in Northwest Alaska. In 1985, an exchange of lands and interests in lands between the Northwest Alaska Native Association and the United States resulted in a 100-year transportation system easement for 19,747 acres in the monument. A road was then constructed along the easement from the Red Dog Mine, a large zinc concentrate producer and located northeast of the monument, through the monument to the coast and a port facility. Each year approximately 1.3 million tonnes of zinc and lead concentrate are transported from the Red Dog Mine via this access road. Concern about the possible deposition of cadmium, lead, zinc and other trace elements in the monument was the basis of a cooperative project with the National Park Service.

Concentrations of dissolved cadmium, dissolved lead, and dissolved zinc from 28 snow samples from a 28 mile by 16 mile grid were below drinking water standards. In the particulate phase, approximately 25 percent of the samples analyzed for these trace elements were higher than the typical range found in Alaska soils. Boxplots of concentrations of these trace elements, both in the dissolved and particulate phase, indicate higher concentrations north of the access road, most likely due to the prevailing southeast wind.

The waters of four streams sampled in Cape Krusenstern National Monument are classified as calcium bicarbonate. Trace-element concentrations from these streams were below drinking water standards. Median concentrations of 39 trace elements from streambed sediments collected from 29 sites are similar to the median concentrations of trace elements from the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Water-Quality Assessment database. Statistical differences were noted between trace-element concentrations of cadmium, lead, and zinc at sites along the access road and sites north and south of the access road; concentrations along the access road being higher than north or south of the road. When normalized to 1 percent organic carbon, the concentrations of these trace elements are not expected to be toxic to aquatic life when compared to criteria established by the Canadian government and other recent research.




Purpose and scope


Description of study area

Methods of data collection and analysis

Trace elements in snow

Trace elements in streams

Trace elements in streambed sediments

Summary and conclusions


Suggested Citation:

Brabets, Timothy P., 2004, Occurrence and distribution of trace elements in snow, streams, and streambed sediments, Cape Krusenstern National Monuments, Alaska, 2002-2003: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigation Report 2004-5229, 31 p.

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For more information about USGS activities in Alaska, visit the USGS Alaska District home page.

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