Floodplain storage of mine tailings in the belle fourche river system: A sediment budget approach



Arsenic-contaminated mine tailings that were discharged into Whitewood Creek at Lead, South Dakota, from 1876 to 1978, were deposited along the floodplains of Whitewood Creek and the Belle Fourche River. The resulting arsenic-contaminated floodplain deposit consists mostly of overbank sediments and filled abandoned meanders along White-wood Creek, and overbank and point-bar sediments along the Belle Fourche River. Arsenic concentrations of the contaminated sediments indicate the degree of dilution of mine tailings by uncontaminated alluvium.

About 13 per cent of the 110 × 106 Mg of mine tailings that were discharged at Lead were deposited along the Whitewood Creek floodplain. Deposition of mine tailings near the mouth of Whitewood Creek was augmented by an engineered structure. About 29 per cent of the mine tailings delivered by Whitewood Creek were deposited along the Belle Fourche River floodplain. About 60 per cent of that sediment is contained in overbank deposits. Deposition along a segment of the Belle Fourche River was augmented by rapid channel migration. The proportions of contaminated sediment stored along Whitewood Creek and the Belle Fourche River are consistent with sediment storage along the floodplains of perennial streams in other, similar sized watersheds.