U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Dot gov

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.


Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.


Main content area

Field observations to establish the impact of fluvial flooding on potentially toxic element (PTE) mobility in floodplain soils

Jessica Ponting, Anne Verhoef, Michael J. Watts, Tom Sizmur
Science of the total environment 2022 v.811 pp. 151378
adsorption, centrifugation, climate change, environment, environmental fate, floodplains, land use change, pH, river water, rivers, soil pore system, topsoil, toxicity, England
Inundation of river water during flooding deposits contaminated sediments onto floodplain topsoil. Historically, floodplains were considered an important sink for potentially toxic elements (PTEs). With increasing flood frequency and duration, due to climate change and land use change, it is important to understand the impact that further flooding may have on this legacy contamination. In this study a field-based approach was taken, extracting soil pore waters by centrifugation of soils sampled on multiple occasions from multiple locations across a floodplain site, which lies adjacent to the River Loddon in southeast England. Flooding generally decreased pore water PTE concentrations and significantly lower pore water concentrations of Cd, Cu, and Cr were found post-flood compared to pre-flood. The dominant process responsible for this observation was precipitation with sulphides resulting in PTE removal from the pore water post-flood. The changes in pH were found to be associated with the decreased pore water concentration of Cu, which suggests the pH rise may have aided adsorption mechanisms or precipitation with phosphates. The impact of flooding on the release and retention of PTEs in floodplain soils is the net effect of several key processes occurring concurrently. It is important to understand the dominant processes that drive mobility of individual PTEs on specific floodplains so that site-specific predictions can determine the impact of future floods on the environmental fate of legacy contaminants.