Journal of Paleolimnology

, Volume 33, Issue 2, pp 189–203 | Cite as

The sedimentary record of environmental lead contamination at St. Louis, Missouri (USA) area smelters

  • Brian Vermillion
  • Richard Brugam
  • William Retzlaff
  • Indu Bala


Southeastern Missouri has been a major Pb mining region since 1720 AD. Missouri mines produce a Pb ore that has a distinctive elevated 206Pb/207Pb isotopic ratio (>1.30) that is easily recognized in Pb-contaminated sediments. Five 210Pb dated sediment cores from Horseshoe Lake, Madison County, Illinois were examined to reconstruct Pb-contamination of the site from southeastern Missouri mines and from a local Pb smelter located adjacent to the lake. Pb concentrations increased in the cores from 5 ppm in the early 1800’s to approximately 350 ppm in the late 1940’s and 1950’s. Pb concentrations in recently deposited sediment range from 100 to 300 ppm depending on the location within the lake. Throughout the 1800’s and early 1900’s the 206Pb/207Pb ratios in the sediment cores increased indicating contamination from southeastern Missouri (mean = 1.243). After the local smelter began recycling lead-acid storage batteries in the 1950’s, the 206Pb/207Pb ratio declined (mean = 1.224) suggesting contamination of Horseshoe Lake with Pb from sources elsewhere around the world. The results of this study demonstrate how isotopic ratios of Pb can be used to reconstruct historical anthropogenic contamination.


Pb isotopes Pb pollution Heavy metals Lake sediment Pb smelting 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Anonymous1882History of MadisonW.R. Brink & CoCounty, Illinois603Google Scholar
  2. Appleby, P.G., Oldfield, F. 1978The calculation of lead-210 dates assuming a constant rate of supply of unsupported 210Pb to the sedimentCatena518Google Scholar
  3. Binford, M. 1990Calculation and uncertainty analysis of 210Pb dates for PIRLA project lake sediment coresJ. Paleolimnol.3253268Google Scholar
  4. Bosworth, C.,Jr. 1982Granite City Waste Pile Has Officials in QuandarySt. Louis Post-DispatchSt. Louis, MOGoogle Scholar
  5. Boyle, J.F., Rose, N.L., Bennion, H., Yang, H., Appleby, P.G. 1999Environmental impacts in the Jianghan Plain: evidence from lake sedimentsWater Air Soil Poll.1122140Google Scholar
  6. Brännvall, M.-L., Bindler, R., Emteryd, I.R.O., Bartnicki, J., Billström, K. 1999The medieval metal industry was the cradle of modern large-scale atmospheric lead pollution in Northern EuropeEnviron. Sci. Technol.3343914395Google Scholar
  7. Brännvall, M.-L., Bindler, R., Emteryd, O., Renberg, I. 2001Four thousand years of atmospheric lead pollution in Northern Europe: a summary from Swedish lake sedimentsJ. Paleolimnol.25421435Google Scholar
  8. Brown, J.S. 1962Ore leads and isotopesEcon. Geol.57673720Google Scholar
  9. Brugam, R.B., Bala, I., Martin, J., Vermillion, B., Retzlaff, W. 2003The sedimentary record of environmental contamination at Horseshoe LakeMadison County, IllinoisTrans. Ill. St. Acad. Sci.96205218Google Scholar
  10. Chow, T.J., Earl, J.L. 1970Lead aerosols in the atmosphere: increasing concentrationsScience160577580Google Scholar
  11. Colten, C.E. 1988Historical Assessment of Hazardous Waste Management In Madison and St. Claire Counties, Illinois, 1890–1980Illinois State MuseumSpringfieldGoogle Scholar
  12. Craig, J.R., Rimstidt, J.D., Bonnaffon, C.A., Collins, T.K., Scanlon, P.F. 1999Surface Water Transport of Lead at a Shooting RangeEnviron. Contam. Technol.63312319Google Scholar
  13. Doe, B.R. 1970Lead IsotopesSpringer VerlagNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  14. Eades L.J., Farmer J.G., MacKenzie A.B., Kirika A. and Bailey-Watts A.E. 2002. Stable lead isotopic characterization of the historical record of environmental lead contamination in dated freshwater lake sediment cores from northern and central Scotland. Sci. Total Environ. 292: 55–67.Google Scholar
  15. Graney, J.R., Halliday, A.N., Keeler, G.J., Nriagu, J.O., Robbins, J.A., Norton, S.A. 1995Isotopic record of lead pollution in lake sediments from the northeastern United StatesGeochim. Cosmochim. Acta5917151728Google Scholar
  16. Grimley, D.A. 2000Glacial and nonglacial sediment contributions to Wisconsin episode loess in the central United StatesGSA Bulletin11214751495Google Scholar
  17. Goldhaber, M.B., Church, S.E., Doe, B.R., Aleinikoff, J.N., Brannon, J.C., Podosek, F.A., Moiser, E.L., Taylor, C.D., Gent, C.A. 1995Lead and sulfur isotope investigation of Paleozoic sedimentary rocks from the Southern Mid-continent of the United States: implications for paleohydrology and ore genesis of the Southeast Missouri Lead BeltsEcon. Geol.9018751910Google Scholar
  18. Gehy, M.A., Schotterer, U., Grosjean, M. 1998Temporal change in the C-14 reservoir effect in lakesRadiocarbon40921931Google Scholar
  19. Hill, T.E., Evans, R.L., Bell, J.S. 1981Water Quality Assessment of Horseshoe LakeSWS Contract Report Illinois Institute of Natural ResourcesPeoriaGoogle Scholar
  20. Kharkar, D.P., Thomson, J., Turekian, H.K., Forster, W.O. 1976Uranium and Thorium in decay series nuclides in plankton from the CaribbeanLimnol. Oceanogr.21296301Google Scholar
  21. Lin, Z.Q., Schemenauer, R.S., Schuepp, P.H., Barthakur, N.N., Kennedy, G.G. 1997Airborne metal pollutants in high elevation forests of southern Quebec, Canadaand their likely source regionsAgric. For. Meteorol.874154Google Scholar
  22. March, D.D. 1967The History of MissouriLewis Historical Publishing CompanyNew York, NYGoogle Scholar
  23. Ollendorf, A.L. 1993Changing Landscapes in the American Bottom (United States of America): An Interdisciplinary Investigation with an Emphasis on the Late-prehistoric and Early-historic PeriodsUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisPh.D. DissertationGoogle Scholar
  24. Rabinowitz, M.B., Wetherill, G.W. 1972Indentifying sources of lead contamination by stable isotope techniquesEnviron. Sci. Technol.6705709Google Scholar
  25. Samuel, M.D., Bowers, E.F. 2000Lead exposure in American black ducks after implementation of non-toxic shotJ. Wildlife Manage.64947957Google Scholar
  26. Schoolcraft, H.R. 1819A View of the Lead Mines of Missouri (1972 Reprint Edition)Arno PressNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  27. Shotyk, W., Blaser, P., Grunig, A., Cheburkin, A.K. 2000A new approach for quantifying cumulative anthropogenic, atmospheric lead deposition using peat cores from bogs: Pb in eight Swiss peat bog profilesSci. Total Environ.249281295Google Scholar
  28. Shotyk, W., Weiss, D., Kramers, J.D., Frei, F., Cheburkin, A.K., Gloor, M., Reese, S. 2001Geochemistry of the peat bog at Etang de la GruèreJura Mountains, Switzerlandand its record of atmospheric Pb and lithogenic trace metals (Sc, TiY, Zrand REE) since 12, 73014C yr BPGeochmica. Cosmochimica Acta6523372360Google Scholar
  29. Siver, P.A., Wozniak, J.A. 2001Lead analysis of sediment cores from seven Connecticut lakesJ. Paleolimnol.26110Google Scholar
  30. Smol, J.P. 2002Pollution of Lakes and RiversEdward ArnoldLondonGoogle Scholar
  31. Sonke, J.E., Hoogewerff, J.A., der Laan, S.R., Vangronsveld, J. 2002A chemical and mineralogical reconstruction of Zn-smelter emissions in the Kempen region (Belgium), based on organic pool sediment coresSci. Total Environ.292101109Google Scholar
  32. Sonke, J.E., Burnett, W.C., Hoogewerff, J.A., der Laan, S.R., Vangronsveld, J., Corbett, D.R. 2003Reconstructing 20th century lead pollution and sediment focusing in a peat land pool (Kempen, Belgium) via 210Pb datingJ. Paleolimnol.2995107Google Scholar
  33. Steding, D.J., Dunlap, C.E., Flegal, A.R. 2000New isotopic evidence for chronic lead contamination in the San Francisco Bay estuary system: implication for the persistence of past industrial lead emissions in the biosphereProc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA971118111186Google Scholar
  34. Szymanowska, A., Samecka-Cymnerman, A., Kempers, A.J. 1999Heavy Metals in Three Lakes in West PolandEcotoxicol. Environ. Safety432129Google Scholar
  35. Thompson, H.C. 1955Our Lead Belt Heritage (1992 Reprint edition)Walworth Publishing Co.MarcelineMOGoogle Scholar
  36. USEPA. 2003. NPL Fact Sheets for Illinois: NL Industries/Taracorp Smelter. DPA ID #ILD096731.Google Scholar
  37. Vermillion, B. 2003Major Element and Heavy Metal Concentrations in Horseshoe LakeMadison Co., ILSouthern Illinois University EdwardsvilleEdwardsvilleILM.S. Thesis.Google Scholar
  38. von Gunten, H.R., Sturm, M., Moser, R.N. 1997200-year record of metals in lake sediments and natural background concentrationsEnviron. Sci. Technol.3121932197Google Scholar
  39. Wright, H.E. 1980Cores of soft lake sedimentsBoreas9107114Google Scholar
  40. Zhang, Y. 2003100 years of Pb deposition and transport in soils in Champaign, Illinois, USAWaterAir Soil Poll.146197210Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brian Vermillion
    • 1
  • Richard Brugam
    • 2
  • William Retzlaff
    • 3
  • Indu Bala
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Natural Resources and Environmental SciencesUniversity of IllinoisUrbana
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesSouthern Illinois UniversityEdwardsvilleUSA
  3. 3.Environmental Sciences ProgramSouthern Illinois UniversityEdwardsvilleUSA

Personalised recommendations