Northeastern Section - 56th Annual Meeting - 2021

Paper No. 19-1
Presentation Time: 1:35 PM


HAYHOW, Claire1, GOLDSMITH, Megan2, JIM, Rebecca3, LIVELY, Martin3 and BRABANDER, Daniel2, (1)Environmental Studies, Wellesley College, 106 Central Street, Wellesley, MA 02481, (2)Geosciences, Wellesley College, 106 Central St, Wellesley, MA 02481, (3)Local Environmental Action Demanded Agency, 19289 South 4403 Drive, Vinita, OK 74301

Heavy metal contamination of floodplains at mining sites such as in Picher, OK involve a complex set of biogeochemical interactions that are controlled by land use patterns, transport pathways, and changing climate making it difficult to prioritize interventions aimed at reducing exposure. The Tar Creek Superfund Site, located in Ottawa County, OK, has large mine waste (chat) piles and acid mine seepage, which has contaminated surrounding communities with zinc, lead, and cadmium. This study, built on a modified Participatory Action Research (PAR) model, seeks to address this intervention challenge through collaboration with L.E.A.D. Agency in Miami, OK, an environmental advocacy group with a long history of co-designing research agendas to address local populations at greatest risk. From the start of this process, we prioritized effectively communicating research results through infographic workshops, seasonal postcards, and posters.

We will focus on size fractionating spent mushroom compost that is produced in the watershed and used for gardening and floodplain soil remediation and floodplain soil transects from residential, agricultural, and the Tar Creek Superfund site. We will then analyze samples using non destructive X-ray fluorescence methods to determine metal concentrations at various sizes. This data will identify the geomobile materials in the watershed that might be linked with exposure pathways. Floodplain soils will be analyzed for lead isotopes to determine the origins of Pb and to determine if any geochemical transformations occur during transport. Biological analysis of compost will include 16s RNA microbiome sequencing to determine if a unique biogeochemical fingerprint of this facility can be used to trace transport. We will also analyze white button mushrooms from the facility and plants in the floodplains for As, Pb, and Cd concentrations, to determine metal bioavailability.

Simultaneously generating research questions while considering immediate impact with community members resulted in serendipitous science. Only through a participatory approach could we learn the questions and processes that really matter in the system.