A systematic water-quality study of the Fortymile River and many of its major tributaries in eastern Alaska was conducted in June of 1997 and 1998. Surface-water samples were collected for chemical analyses to establish regional baseline geochemistry values and to evaluate the possible environmental effects of suction-dredge placer gold mining and bulldozer-operated placer gold mining (commonly referred to as “cat mining”). In general, the water quality of the Fortymile River is very good, with low total dissolved solids and only two cases in which the concentration of any element exceeded primary or secondary drinking-water quality standards. In both cases, iron exceeded secondary drinking-water limits. At the time this work was conducted, only a handful of suction dredges were operating on the lower Fortymile River, and cat mining was being conducted along Uhler Creek and Canyon Creek, two major tributaries to the river. Based on the water-quality and turbidity data, the suction dredges have no apparent impact on the Fortymile River system, although possible effects on biota have not been evaluated in this study. In contrast, the cat-mining operations in Canyon Creek appear to have a dramatic impact on water quality and stream-bed morphology, based on the field water-quality and turbidity measurements, on comparisons to adjacent unmined drainages, and on field observations of stream-bed morphology. The cat mining in Uhler Creek appears to have had less impact, perhaps because the main stream channel was not as heavily disrupted by the bulldozers, and the stability of the channel was mostly preserved.
|Title||Regional baseline geochemistry and environmental effects of gold placer mining operations on the Fortymile River, eastern Alaska: A section in Geologic studies in Alaska by the U.S. Geological Survey, 1998|
|Authors||Richard B. Wanty, Bronwen Wang, Jim Vohden, Paul H. Briggs, Allen L. Meier|
|Publication Subtype||USGS Numbered Series|
|Series Title||Professional Paper|
|Record Source||USGS Publications Warehouse|
|USGS Organization||Alaska Science Center Geology Minerals; Crustal Geophysics and Geochemistry Science Center|