Lane County is the site of the former Black Butte Mercury Mine, which was mined from the late 1800s until the 1970s. The site was added to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Superfund List in 2010. Mercury tailings from the mine are considered the main cause of elevated fish tissue mercury concentrations in Cottage Grove Reservoir, Dorena Reservoir, and the Willamette River.
Arsenic is a naturally occurring element in the Earth's crust, and a class 1 non-threshold human carcinogen. Arsenic is also a developmental neurotoxin, a feature it shares with methylmercury. The groundwater in the Willamette Basin, especially Lane County, is highly contaminated with inorganic arsenic, mainly due to aquifer geology.
Our lab is contributing to research concerning prenatal co-exposure to methylmercury and arsenic in Lane County, Oregon. As this research unfolds, we hope to work with community partners to mitigate risk.