Award Date

12-2011

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Environmental Science

Department

Environmental and Public Affairs

First Committee Member

Vernon Hodge, Chair

Second Committee Member

Krystyna Stave

Third Committee Member

Shawn Gerstenberger

Graduate Faculty Representative

Moses Karakouzian

Number of Pages

122

Abstract

This research focused on the distribution of the Three Kids Mine tailings in surface soils in and around the mine in Henderson, Nevada. It is situated next to the communities of Calico Ridge and Lake Las Vegas Resort, and, just the west of the Lake Mead Recreation area. Even though the mine has been inactive for almost 50 years (1917-1961), tailing piles and other sources of contamination on the mine are currently exposed to the atmosphere. In this study, surface soil samples were collected along eight transects emanating from the center of Three Kids Mine tailing piles up to five miles in one mile increments. The soil samples were analyzed for lead, manganese, arsenic, and 12 other elements using x-ray florescence spectroscopy (XRF). The results of this study show that there is transport of mine tailings to surface soils at locations adjacent to the mine. The majority of the elements (Mn, Cu, Zn, As, Sr, Mo, and Pb) at these sites have concentrations above the limit of detection; chromium, cobalt, mercury, nickel, and selenium are below the limit of detection in the soil samples; and, iron, rubidium, and zirconium stay fairly constant within a factor of three or four fold.

Examination of the transect maps shows that the mining wastes are transported the farthest from the center of the waste piles along Transects 1 and 2, which go up to three miles the north east and east from the site, respectively. The concentrations of manganese, arsenic, and lead in Transects 1 and 2, at one mile from the mine, are also found to be significantly higher than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Regional Screening Level (RSL). The topography (altitude) of these transects is initially increasing from the west to the mine, with mountains in the path of Transect 2, and subsequently decreasing toward the Las Vegas Wash and Lake Mead. Relatively low transport of the wastes occurs on Transects 3-8, in the direction of the River Mountains, the City of Henderson, the communities of Calico Ridge, and the western edge of the Lake Las Vegas Resort, going out to between a half mile and one mile from the mine. Overall, there is contamination of surface soils adjacent to the mine site, with manganese, arsenic, and lead contamination reaching up to between one and three miles. Further study is needed to show conclusively that the mine waste has reached the communities of Calico Ridge and Lake Las Vegas Resort.

Keywords

Mine soils – Leaching; Mineral industries—Waste disposal; Nevada – Henderson; Sediment transport; Soil pollution; Tailings (Metallurgy) – Environmental aspects; Three Kids mine (Nev.)

Disciplines

Desert Ecology | Environmental Health and Protection | Environmental Indicators and Impact Assessment | Environmental Monitoring | Environmental Sciences | Soil Science

Language

English