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Impact of Mount St. Helens eruption on hydrology and water quality

December 31, 1981

The 1980 eruptions of Mount St. Helens in southeast Washington resulted in a pronounced effect on the surface and ground water resources of the state. In response to the volcanic activity, the U.S. Geological Survey intensified statewide surface and ground water sampling programs to determine the nature and magnitude of the volcanic-induced variations. Streams to the east of Mount St. Helens received the major ash fallout. Chemical effects were best noted in smaller streams sampled 60 to 70 miles northeast of Mount St. Helens. The chemical variations observed were pronounced but short lived. Sulfate and chloride increases in anionic composition were prevalent immediately following the eruption however, the original bicarbonate predominance was again attained within several days. Suspended iron and aluminum concentrations were similarly elevated during the period of greatest ash deposition (highest turbidity) however, the dissolved concentrations remained relatively constant. Depressions of pH were minor and short lived. Streams draining to the south, tributaries to the Columbia river, showed little observable changes in water chemistry. Streams draining to the west (Toutle river and its tributaries) were compositionally affected by the various volcanic activities. Chloride and sulfate anion percentage exceeded the bicarbonate percentage up to one month following the eruption period. Streams and lakes sampled in the immediate vicinity of Mount St. Helens, in addition to trace metals, contained organic compounds derived from decomposing wood buried in the debris deposits. This organic material may constitute a significant source of organic compounds to surface and ground water for some time to come.

Citation Information

Publication Year 1982
Title Impact of Mount St. Helens eruption on hydrology and water quality
Authors J. E. Bonelli, Howard E. Taylor, J.M. Klein
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype Other Government Series
Series Title Technical Report
Series Number N-8311538
Index ID 70188759
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse