Soil bound lead (Pb) surrounding Snailbeach Lead Mine, Shropshire

Pierce, Tobias J (2022) Soil bound lead (Pb) surrounding Snailbeach Lead Mine, Shropshire. MSc(Res) thesis, University of Nottingham.

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The toxicity of lead (Pb) is widely acknowledged and is now considered a non-threshold toxin. Given Pb’s widespread usage throughout history, an extensive industry developed, mining and refining (smelting) Pb ore to form a workable product. Whilst there are no longer operational lead-zinc mines in the UK, there is an extensive contaminative legacy from historic operations, often generating regional-scale elevated background concentrations as well as acutely contaminated hotspots. Many sites have been subject to ‘remedial’ work to reduce active dispersal from mine tailings (spoil heaps) and to secure and stabilise old workings, though much work was done prior to the introduction of the Environmental Protection Act 1990 (EPA 1990). The EPA 1990 introduced requirements for local authorities to assess and address historic contamination where there is significant harm, or a significant possibility of harm, being caused. Later statutory guidance was issued stating that widespread geogenic contaminants should not constitute ‘contaminated land’ without significant evidence to suggest otherwise. This has required further study to explore the nature and availability of Pb in mining areas. The former Snailbeach Lead Mine, near Shrewsbury, Shropshire is an example of such a site. Whilst closed and derelict since last operations on the site in 1950’s, local safety concerns meant the site was subject to investigation and subsequent remedial work to reduce and cap the largest spoil heap, the ‘White Tip’. Subsequent studies were commissioned following the death of livestock on an adjacent field in 2002, which found bioaccessible Pb material, likely derived from the ‘White Tip’. However, no subsequent significant indicators of Pb uptake in livestock or humans have been confirmed. Whilst the original aim of this project was to further characterise and determine the extent to which soil bound Pb in the Snailbeach area is bioaccessible, the study and available analyses were impacted by the 2020/21 Coronavirus pandemic. Total x-ray fluorescence spectrometry (XRF) and extractable Inductively coupled mass spectrometry (aqua regia ICP-MS) Pb concentrations were undertaken across 56 sample locations, with the data interrogated to inform future characterisations of the Snailbeach area. The study found elevated total and extractable Pb concentrations surrounding the central mine area, as well as localised elevated concentrations on varied current landuse types surrounding the ‘White Tip’. A local background concentration of 3563 mg kg-1 was derived and is considered in the context of relevant guidance, the recent understanding of the impact of Pb, previous studies and remedial work undertaken at Snailbeach. Recommendations are made for further work that will better characterise soil Pb at Snailbeach.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (MSc(Res))
Supervisors: Jones, Matthew
Keywords: Shropshire, soils, lead content, lead contamination, lead mines
Subjects: S Agriculture > S Agriculture (General)
T Technology > TD Environmental technology. Sanitary engineering
T Technology > TN Mining engineering. Metallurgy
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > School of Geography
Item ID: 68481
Depositing User: Pierce, Tobias
Date Deposited: 31 Jul 2022 04:41
Last Modified: 31 Jul 2022 04:41

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