Flooding and the Distribution of Selected Metals in Floodplain Sediments in St. Maries, Idaho

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flood hazard, heavy metals, Idaho, USA

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The link between sediment contamination and flooding is not well established, since flooding may exacerbate problems by spreading pollutants throughout the floodplain, or alternatively may dilute contaminants in source areas. To determine the substance of such relationships, the pattern of sediment contamination was examined in a small Idaho town following flooding in 1996. Four heavy metals were tested, nickel, chromium, zinc and copper, in 97 soil samples obtained from sites across the floodplain of the St. Joe River. Flood history and land-uses at each sample site were noted. Results showed that contamination levels generally were not high, with flood areas having lower concentrations than non-flood areas. A stronger relationship could be argued for land-use, with higher concentrations of contamination associated with some industrial sites. High levels of contamination were also found in several samples taken from recreational areas. Further research looking at the potential sources of contamination in relation to characteristics of the flood hydrology would seem pertinent.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Environmental Geochemistry and Health, v. 22, issue 3, p. 219-232