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Enrichment of Heavy Metals in Sediment Resulting from Soil Erosion on Agricultural Fields

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journal contribution
posted on 15.05.2007 by John N. Quinton, John A. Catt
Heavy metal pollution of soil and water is often associated with industry, but in this paper we demonstrate that water erosion on agricultural soil which has received only agrochemicals has enriched sediment metal concentrations to toxic levels which breach many accepted standards for soils and sediments. Eight 0.1 ha erosion plots with different cultivation treatments were monitored over a 6 year period for surface runoff, soil loss, and Cr, Cu, Pb, and Ni concentrations. Mean concentrations of these heavy metals were up to 3.98 times higher in the sediment than in the parent soil and in some erosion events the sediment had 13.5 times the concentration of metals in the soil. All the sediment heavy metal concentrations were significantly correlated (p < 0.01) with the clay and silt sized fractions of the sediment and with carbon content. The erosion was a highly selective process enriching the detached material in silt, clay, and organic carbon. This was particularly true in smaller erosion events. Sediment metal concentrations tended to follow the shape of runoff hydrographs, although the pattern changed from storm to storm.