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Metal mobility due to storm events on an impacted hillslope in Palmerton, PA

Burrows, Jill E., Peters, Stephen C.
Applied geochemistry 2013 v.31 pp. 52-59
adsorption, cadmium, desorption, emissions, geochemistry, hydrograph, lead, models, pH, soil profiles, soil sampling, springs (water), watersheds, zinc, Pennsylvania
Water samples were collected continuously from perennial springs on a hillslope impacted by historical metal deposition to study the hydrologic and geochemical behavior of a watershed during storm events, and assess the natural attenuation of metals in soil. Water samples were collected throughout storm hydrographs for inorganic chemistry analyses, and a sequential extraction was performed on watershed soil samples. Despite 30a of natural attenuation at the site, Zn is mobilized into streamwater during storm events, with concentrations ranging from 18 to 452μg/L. While Cd and Pb concentrations in water samples remained relatively constant, Zn concentration increased corresponding with the peak in the hydrograph indicating this metal is being released from adsorption sites located in an unsaturated zone that is temporarily inundated during storm events. Zinc is held on exchangeable, water and acid soluble sites, and in the reducible fraction, further indicating Zn may be released as a result of the downward movement of water through the soil profile. Equilibrium geochemical modeling predicts Zn desorption with a decrease in pH, which may occur as a result of site re-vegetation. The long legacy of metal emissions from a historical smelting operation will continue to limit the attenuating ability of this site.