Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)




Thomas E. Lachmar


The aqueous geochemistry and hydrology of the North Fork of the American Fork River, its tributaries, and the ground water in the vicinity of the Pacific Mine site were investigated in order to determine what impact ground water entering the North Fork has on toxic metal loads in the river. Toxic metal contamination in the North Fork is great enough that brown and cutthroat trout have absorbed lead, cadmium, and arsenic in their tissues at concentrations that are hazardous to human health if consumed. Ground water that flows through the mine site flows directly through the mine tailings before entering the North Fork, which produces an acidic ground water plume that has high concentrations of toxic metals. Together, the surface water discharge results and toxic metals concentrations from the surface and ground waters were used to determine toxic metals loading rates in the North Fork and its tributaries. The results suggest that the dissolved toxic metals (As, Cd, Cu, Fe, Mn, Pb, and Zn) enter the North Fork when the river is gaining water from the ground water. However, the total toxic metal load generally decreases through the reach of river adjacent to the mine site and is significantly greater than the dissolved load. Cadmium and Mn travel as dissolved species while Cu, Fe, Pb, and Zn travel as suspended solids in the North Fork and its tributaries. Arsenic seems to be associated with both the suspended solids and travel in the dissolved state. The geochemical modeling program PHREEQC and the diffuse double layer surface complexation model were used to investigate the chemistry that controls toxic metal mobility and attenuation in the surface and ground waters at the mine site. Based on PHREEQC results, the most important reaction in these waters is the precipitation of hydrous fe1Tic oxide. The toxic metals that sorb to the hydrous ferric oxide are Cu, Pb, most importantly Zn, and to a lesser degree As.

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