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Sediment dynamics and pollutant mobility in rivers: An interdisciplinary approach

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Characteristic dynamic features of sediment-related processes in rivers include dramatic effects of stormwater events on particle transport, rapid and far-reaching effects of sulphide oxidation during resuspension, and biological accumulation and potential release of toxic chemicals. Pollutant mobility is the net result of the stabilizing and mobilizing effects in both hydraulic and chemical fields. In practice, emphasis has to be given to fine-grained sediments and suspended matter as these materials exhibit large surface areas and high sorption capacities. Organic materials are highly reactive. Degradation of organic matter will induce oxygen depletion and might enhance formation of flocs and biofilms. Study of variations of sediment and water chemistry should predominantly include changes of pH and redox conditions, competition of dissolved ions and processes such as complexation by organic substances. Major questions relate to the potential reduction of sorption sites on minerals and degradation of organic carrier materials. All these processes will influence solution/solid equilibrium conditions and have to be studied prior to modelling the overall effects of pollutants on the water body and aquatic ecosystems. With respect to handling and remediation of contaminated river sediments, either in-place or excavated, a chemical and biological characterization of the material, of the (disposal) site and of the long-term processes is crucial. Passive techniques (e.g. in situ stabilization, subaqueous capping) provide economic advantages as there are no operation costs following their installation. However, the success of these ecological and geochemical engineering approaches is mainly based on an in-depth knowledge of the underlying processes.

Keywords: biofilms; colloids; dredged material; flood plain; flume experiments; geochemistry; particle aggregation; sediment deposition; sediment erosion; suspended matter

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Environmental Science and Technology, University of Technology of Hamburg-Harburg, Eissendorferstr, Hamburg, Germany

Publication date: 2004-03-01

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