Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Lead and strontium isotopes as monitors of anthropogenic contaminants in the surficial environment

December 8, 2017

Isotopic discrimination can be an effective tool in establishing a direct link between sources of Pb contamination and the presence of anomalously high concentrations of Pb in waters, soils, and organisms. Residential wells supplying water containing up to 1600 ppb Pb to houses built on the former Mohr orchards commercial site, near Allentown, Pennsylvania, United States, were evaluated to discern anthropogenic from geogenic sources. Pb and Sr isotopic data and REE data were determined for waters from residential wells, test wells (drilled for this study), and surface waters from pond and creeks. Local soils, sediments, bedrock, Zn-Pb mineralization and coal were also analyzed, together with locally used Pb-As pesticide. Pb isotope data for residential wells, test wells, and surface waters show substantial overlap with Pb data reflecting anthropogenic actions (e.g., burning fossil fuels, industrial and urban processing activities). Limited contributions of Pb from bedrock, soils, and pesticides are evident. High Pb concentrations in the residential waters are likely related to Pb in groundwater accumulating in sediment in the residential water tanks. The Pb isotope features of waters in underlying shallow aquifers that supply residential wells in the region are best interpreted as reflecting a legacy of anthropogenic Pb rather than geogenic Pb.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2018
Title Lead and strontium isotopes as monitors of anthropogenic contaminants in the surficial environment
DOI 10.1016/B978-0-444-63763-5.00013-6
Authors Robert A. Ayuso, Nora K. Foley
Publication Type Book Chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Index ID 70193307
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Eastern Mineral and Environmental Resources Science Center