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Application of PAH concentration profiles in lake sediments as indicators for smelting activity

Warner, Wiebke, Ruppert, Hans, Licha, Tobias
The Science of the total environment 2016 v.563-564 pp. 587-592
copper, heavy metals, lakes, mining, pollution, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, sediments, shale, sludge, smelting, Germany
The ability of lake sediment cores to store long-term anthropogenic pollution establishes them as natural archives. In this study, we focus on the influence of copper shale mining and smelting in the Mansfeld area of Germany, using the depth profiles of two sediment cores from Lake Süßer See. The sediment cores provide a detailed chronological deposition history of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heavy metals in the studied area. Theisen sludge, a fine-grained residue from copper shale smelting, reaches the lake via deflation by wind or through riverine input; it is assumed to be the main source of pollution. To achieve the comparability of absolute contaminant concentrations, we calculated the influx of contaminants based on the sedimentation rate. Compared to the natural background concentrations, PAHs are significantly more enriched than heavy metals. They are therefore more sensitive and selective for source apportionment. We suggest two diagnostic ratios of PAHs to distinguish between Theisen sludge and its leachate: the ratio fluoranthene to pyrene ~2 and the ratio of PAH with logKOW<5.7 to PAH with a logKOW>5.7 converging to an even lower value than 2.3 (the characteristic of Theisen sludge) to identify the particulate input in lake environments.