Resuspension of contaminated field and formulated reference sediments Part I: Evaluation of metal release under controlled laboratory conditions

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In aquatic systems where metal contaminated sediments are present, the potential exists for metals to be released to the water column when sediment resuspension occurs. The release and partitioning behavior of sediment-bound heavy metals is not well understood during resuspension events. In this study, the release of Cd, Cu, Hg, Ni, Pb and Zn from sediments during resuspension was evaluated using reference sediments with known physical and chemical properties. Sediment treatments with varying quantities of acid volatile sulfide (AVS), total organic carbon (TOC), and different grain size distributions were resuspended under controlled conditions to evaluate their respective effects on dissolved metal concentrations. AVS had the greatest effect on limiting release of dissolved metals, followed by grain size and TOC. Predictions of dissolved concentrations of Cd, Ni, Pb and Zn were developed based on the formulated sediment Σmetal/AVS ratios with Σmetal being the total sediment metal concentration. Predicted values were compared to measured dissolved metal concentrations in contaminated field sediments resuspended under identical operating conditions. Metal concentrations released from the field sediments were low overall, in most cases lower than predicted values, reflecting the importance of other binding phases. Overall, results indicate that for sulfidic sediments, low levels of the study metals are released to the dissolved phase during short-term resuspension.

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