Date of Graduation

Fall 1999


Master of Science in Geospatial Sciences


Geography, Geology, and Planning

Committee Chair

Robert Pavlowsky

Subject Categories

Earth Sciences


Sediment-associated contaminants released by past mining activities in the Tri-State Lead and Zinc District in southwest Missouri pose a long-term risk to water quality. This study uses sedimentological and geochemical analyses to describe the relationships between mine contaminant dispersal and historical sedimentation patterns of the Honey Creek watershed ( 176 km2) which drains the Aurora Sub-district along the eastern boundary of the Tri-State District. This watershed has been subjected to an intense period of Pb-Zn mining that began in 1886, peaked in 1916, and ended by 1930. The objectives of this study are to: (1) determine the magnitude and distribution of metal contaminants in floodplain sediments; and (2) use contaminant profiles as tracers in overbank deposits to determine the patterns and rates of historical overbank sedimentation caused by land clearing beginning about 1870. Results indicate that zinc levels are as high as 575 times their background and lead levels 70 times their background in overbank deposits. These levels decrease exponentially with distance away from mine tailing sources. Depths of historical overbank deposition average 74 cm throughout the Honey Creek basin with a range of 8 cm to 125 cm. Immediately after episodes of land clearing overbank sedimentation rates averaged 0.82 cm/yr (1886-1916) with rates later decreasing to 0.60 cm/yr {1916-1998). Tributary sedimentation rates were highest during the initial phases of settlement ( <1910) While the highest rates along the main stem occurred later on (>1920). Little is known about the historical geomorphology of Ozarks floodplains since these floodplains generally lack buried soils that may provide an indication of pre-settlement surfaces. Therefore, the uses of mining-related metal tracers represent an important tool to study floodplain evolution and adjustments to human and climatic disturbances in the Ozarks Plateau.


© Jason L Carlson

Open Access