We assessed contamination in the Upper Tisza region (Hungary, Central Europe), analyzing the elemental concentrations in sediment cores of oxbows. Our hypothesis was that the metal contamination which occurred in the year 2000 and which came from the mining area in Transylvania (Romania) may be detected even 15 years after the contamination, based on the vertical profile of sediment cores. Sediment cores were collected from five oxbows, and the following elements were measured with microwave plasma-atomic emission spectrometry (MP-AES): Cu, Cr, Ba, Fe, Mn, Pb, Sr, and Zn. Among the oxbows studied, there was one protected oxbow, three were used for fishing, and one was contaminated with sewage. Our results indicated that the year of contamination is still observable in the vertical profile of the sediment cores. The pollution index (PI) was used to characterize the sediment enrichment of metal elements in the sediment cores. In the case of Cu, Pb, and Zn, the contamination which originated in the year 2000 was detected in the layers of the sediment cores. The contamination levels of Cu, Pb, and Zn were high or moderate in the studied oxbows. All oxbows were moderately contaminated by Mn, while a moderate level of contamination was found for Fe in the protected oxbow, one fishing oxbow, and the sewage-contaminated oxbow. In the fishing oxbows, a low level of contamination was found for Fe. The contamination level of Sr was low in the protected oxbow and in the two fishing oxbows, while in one of the fishing oxbows and in the sewage-contaminated oxbow, a moderate level of Sr contamination was found. The pollution index scores indicated that the contamination level for Ba and Cr was low in the sediment cores of the oxbows studied. Our results indicated that the contamination of the Tisza River from the mining area in Northern Romania has been continuous and is still ongoing.
Keywords: Inorganic contamination; Pollution index; Sediment; Vertical profile.