Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry Analysis of Heavy Metals found within the Spokane River


Devlin Mee

Faculty Mentor(s)

Carey Gazis (Geological Sciences)


The Spokane River, a tributary of the Columbia River, is the main river that flows through Eastern Washington and through the City of Spokane. This river serves as the primary source of recharge for the Spokane Valley–Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer (SVRP), providing water for Spokane, Post Falls, and Lake Coeur D’Alene. Historical mining at Lake Coeur D’Alene that occurred in the 19th and 20th centuries is believed to be one potential source of pollution in the river. While research has analyzed contaminants in the Spokane River, there has been a lack pollution measurements consistently over time. To assess the impact of historical mining on the Spokane River, researchers collected samples of river water at five separate locations between Gateway Regional Park and Riverside State Park on a single day. Three of these sampling sites were upriver from Spokane, one within the city, and one downstream of Spokane. At Central Washington University, the samples were analyzed with an inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometer to determine concentrations of heavy metals. Calcium, measured between 6 parts-per-million (ppm) and 25 ppm seem to be consistent with prior measurements made in the SRVP of 30 ppm of Calcium. Waters sampled closer to the Washington- Idaho border are more dilute, with the lowest total dissolved solids. Despite this dilution, these samples appear to contain higher concentrations of lead, zinc, and iron. More samples need to be tested at each site to give a better understanding of chemical variability in the Spokane River.

Keywords: Spokane River, Spectrometry, Mining


6 thoughts on “Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry Analysis of Heavy Metals found within the Spokane River”

  1. Angela Halfpenny

    great talk well presented and very interesting results.
    great to see that the city of Spokane is not polluting the river!
    Do they have any extra treatment steps that they are performing?

  2. Super rad stuff Devlin. Stoked that Spokane isn’t trashing the river, makes me feel a bit better about having swam in it for all these years! I know it’s totally out of the scope of your project, but do you think taking data from the wildlife instead of the water itself tell a different story? You mentioned how the pollutants could harm the fish so I thought it would be interesting to look at them as well, see the concentrations of the different chemicals of concern in their systems and what sort of story that tells. Again, that’s probably way off the topic. But, super sweet presentation, stoked that I can keep splashing around the river without worry!

    1. Nice presentation. It would be interesting to sample farther upstream to see how the trends in trace elements and major ions continue to change.

  3. Allyson Rogan-Klyve

    Excellent work on this presentation! Your use of visual representations to support your presentation is very well done!

  4. This is very interesting and well done! I would have thought there would be a bit more contamination from the city too, so the results are surprising. Do you plan to continue research on this topic and test more sites?

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