Potentially toxic elements in water and sediments of the Sava River under extreme flow events

Sci Total Environ. 2017 Dec 15;605-606:894-905. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.06.260. Epub 2017 Jul 4.


River ecosystems are exposed to various stressors. Among them, elements may contribute to overall pollution of riverine environments, in particular during the extreme flow events. To evaluate the influence of variable river flow conditions on the mobilization of potentially toxic elements (PTE) (Cr, Ni, Cd, Zn, Pb, As and Cu) from sediments into the overlaying waters of the Sava River, samples were collected in September 2014, during extremely high water discharges and in September 2015, under low water discharge conditions. In water samples the total element concentrations and the dissolved element contents (<0.45μm) were determined. Sediment pollution was estimated by determination of the total element concentrations and mobile element fraction (0.11molL-1 acetic acid). Anthropogenic inputs of elements to sediments were evaluated by normalizing elemental against Al concentration. The results showed that concentrations of PTE in water were in general higher during high water discharges, while the soluble concentrations were higher during low water level conditions. Concentrations of PTE in the Sava sediments collected in 2015 were lower than those collected in 2014, mainly because during the extreme floods a mixture of bank sediment material and contaminated soil was sampled. Partitioning coefficients between suspended particulate matter (SPM) and soluble content of elements in the water under high and low flow conditions, indicated on different affinity of elements to SPM in relation to different flow regimes. The potential ecological risk posed by the simultaneous presence of PET in sediments was evaluated by Probable Effect Concentration Coefficient (PEC-Q) approach. Under high water level conditions, PEC-Qs were all above critical value 0.34 and derived mostly from anthropogenic inputs of Cr and Ni. Overall sediment toxicity was much lower under low water discharges. The data from this study importantly contribute to the knowledge regarding the behaviour of PTE under extreme flow events.

Keywords: Extreme flow events; Potentially toxic elements; Probable Effect Concentration Quotient; Sediments; The Sava River; Water.