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Journal of Environmental Biology

pISSN: 0254-8704 ; eISSN: 2394-0379 ; CODEN: JEBIDP

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        Abstract - Issue Apr Supplement 2007, 28 (2)                                                                                                             Back


Distribution of heavy metals in vegetation surrounding the Blackstone River, USA: Considerations regarding sediment contamination and long term metals transport in freshwater riverine ecosystems


Hasan Goksel Ozdilek*1, Paul P. Mathisen2 and Don Pellegrino3

1Department of Environmental Engineering, Canakkale Onsekiz Mart University, Terzioglu Campus-17020, Canakkale Turkey

2, 3Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Worcester Polytechnic Institute-01609, Worcester, Massachusetls, USA

(Received: April 27, 2005 ; Revised received: December 02, 2005 ; Accepted: December 26, 2005)

Abstract: The Blackstone River, a 74 km interstate stream located in South Central Massachusetts and Rhode Island (USA), has had a long history of problems due to high concentrations of metals such as copper and lead. The river has been subjected to metals load that include contributions from urban runoff, wastewater discharges, contaminated sediments, and also resuspension of contaminated sediments in the river-bed.? All of these effects lead to elevated concentrations of metals such as lead, copper, zinc, chromium, cadmium and arsenic. Furthermore, the contaminated sediments located behind impoundments become especially important when higher flows cause resuspension of the previously deposited sediments and associated metals. While it is known that high metals concentrations in this river are found in the bottom sediments, the fate of the metals and impact on the ecosystem are not well known. This paper addresses the potential impacts that metals may have on vegetation and plant tissues in the vicinity of the river. Plant tissues (primarily mosses), were collected from a number of sampling sites along a 14 km stretch of this river. At each site, samples were collected from multiple distances from the riverbank. Laboratory analyses made use of both wet digestion and dry ashing digestion methods, followed by analysis using an atomic absorption spectrophotometer. The wet and dry ashing digestion methods yielded similar results, although the results afforded by the dry ashing methods were slightly lower than the results obtained from the wet method. The results showed that the metals concentrations in vegetation (as determined from plant tissue analyses) were generally inversely related to the distance between the vegetation and the riverbank, with higher metals concentrations existing in plant tissues located close to the riverbank. In addition, it was found that the transport of metals concentrations to the terrestrial vegetation adjacent to this section of the Blackstone River was affected by the river morphology and flow characteristics (including velocity, flow rate and depth of flow, which can govern the potential for plant submergence, as well as the dynamics of flow and transport in the soil near the river). The analyses help to provide an improved understanding of metals transport and potential significance of metals contamination in a terrestrial ecosystem that is located adjacent to a river.

Key words: Bioassays, Metal contamination, Copper, Lead, Zinc, Resuspension, Blackstone River, USA


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