Publication Details

Simpson, S. L., Maher, E. J. & Jolley, D. F. (2004). Processes controlling metal transport and retention as metal-contaminated groundwaters efflux through estuarine sediments. Chemosphere, 56 821-831.


Factors affecting the transport and retention of Cd, Cr, Cu, Ni, Pb and Zn in acidic groundwaters as they pass through estuarine sediments were investigated using column experiments. Acidic groundwaters caused the rapid dissolution of iron sulfide (AVS) and other iron and manganese phases from sediments that are important for metal binding and buffering. Metal breakthrough to overlying water occurred in the order of Ni>Zn>Cd>>Cu>>Cr/Pb. Metal transport increased as the sediment permeability increased, reflecting the low resistance to flow caused by larger sand-sized particles and the decreased abundance of metal adsorption sites on these materials. Metal mobility increased as the groundwater pH decreased, as flow rate or metal concentrations increased, and as the exposure duration increased. Groundwater Cr and Pb were promptly attenuated by the sediments, the mobility of Cu was low and decreased rapidly as sediment pH increased above 4.5, while Cd, Ni and Zn were the most easily transported to the surface sediments and released to the overlying waters. For groundwaters of pH 3, metal migration velocities through sandy sediments were generally 0.5-2% (Cr, Pb), 1-6% (Cu) and 4-13% (Cd, Ni, Zn) of the total groundwater velocity (9-700 m/year). The oxidative precipitation of Fe(II) and Mn(II) in the groundwaters did not affect metal mobility through the sediments. The results indicated that the efflux of acidic and metal-contaminated groundwater through estuarine sediments would affect organisms resident in sandy sediments more greatly than organisms resident in fine-grained, silty, sediments.



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