Paleolimnological Analysis of the History of Metals Contamination in the Great Salt Lake, Utah

Wayne A. Wurtsbaugh, Utah State University


Three sediment cores from the Great Salt Lake were analyzed to determine the magnitude and timing for the deposition of 21 metal contaminants. In the main lake (Gilbert Bay) concentrations of copper, lead, zinc, cadmium, silver, molybdenum, tin, mercury and others began increasing in the sediments in the late 1800s or early 1900s and peaked in the 1950s. These increases were coincident with increases in mining and smelting activities for these metals in Utah. Contamination indices in the 1950s were 20-60 fold above background concentrations for silver, copper, lead and molybdenum, and