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Dynamics of suspended sediment borne persistent organic pollutants in a large regulated Mediterranean river (Ebro, NE Spain)

Quesada, S., Tena, A., Guillén, D., Ginebreda, A., Vericat, D., Martínez, E., Navarro-Ortega, A., Batalla, R.J., Barceló, D.
The Science of the total environment 2014 v.473-474 pp. 381-390
DDT (pesticide), energy, gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, hydrograph, industry, persistent organic pollutants, polychlorinated biphenyls, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, rain, rivers, sediment transport, sediments, suspended sediment, Spain
Mediterranean rivers are characterized by highly variable hydrological regimes that are strongly dependent on the seasonal rainfall. Sediment transport is closely related to the occurrence of flash-floods capable to deliver enough kinetic energy to mobilize the bed and channel sediments. Contaminants accumulated in the sediments are likely to be mobilized as well during such events. However, whereas there are many studies characterizing contaminants in steady sediments, those devoted to the transport dynamics of suspended-sediment borne pollution are lacking. Here we examined the occurrence and transport of persistent organic microcontaminants present in the circulating suspended sediments during a controlled flushing flow in the low part of the River Ebro (NE Spain) 12km downstream of a well-known contaminated hot-spot associated to a nearby chloro-alkali industry. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and semi-volatile organochlorine pollutants (DDT and related compounds, DDX; polychlorinated byphenils, PCBs; and other organochlorine compound, OCs) were measured in the particulate material by GC–MS and GC–MS/MS, using previously developed analytical methods. The concentration levels observed were compared to previously reported values in steady sediments in the same river and discussed on a regulatory perspective. Hydrographs and sedigraphs recorded showed a peak-flow of 1300m3s−1 and a corresponding peak of suspended sediments of 315mgL−1. Combination of flow discharge, suspended sediments and pollutants' concentrations data allowed for quantifying the mass flows (mass per unit of time) and setting the load budgets (weight amount) of the different pollutants transported by the river during the monitored event. Mean mass-flows and total load values found were 20.2mgs−1 (400g) for PAHs, 38mgs−1 (940g) for DDX, 44mgs−1 (1038g) for PCBs and 8mgs−1 (200g) for OCs. The dynamic pattern behavior of PAHs differs substantially to that of organochlorine pollutants, thus reflecting different pollution origins.