The ASARCO smelter in Ruston, Wash., was in operation from the 1890s to the 1980s, during which time it contaminated the south-central Puget Sound region with heavy metals, including arsenic and lead. With 83% of the lakes in the zone of deposition having surface sediments exceeding published “probable effects concentrations” for arsenic and lead, there is evidence for possible ongoing environmental health concerns.
Arsenic is a priority Superfund contaminant, neurotoxin and carcinogen. However, the human health and ecological implications of this contamination are unclear due to an incomplete understanding of arsenic bioavailability in urban waters, which are typically affected by nutrient-rich conditions. Our work looks to quantify primary drivers of arsenic mobility, bioavailability and ecological toxicity in urban lakes.