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Quantification of spatial and temporal variations in trace element fluxes originating from urban areas at the catchment scale

Abstract : Background, aim, and scope The release of trace elements (TE) associated with the development of human activities has accelerated since the nineteenth century, leading to the pollution of river systems. Despite a drastic reduction in industrial inputs in northern Europe, diffuse pollution originating from urban areas still prevents achieving the good status required by the European Water Framework Directive. The objectives of the current study, which is a part of a wider project, were to determine the impact of hydrological dynamics on the total exports of TE from an urban catchment and to develop an assessment tool to evaluate the level of contamination of a catchment based on its specific particulate TE fluxes. Materials and methods Accordingly, this research investigated the behavior of TE contamination in a 950 km2 catchment (Orge River, France) showing a strong urbanization gradient in downstream direction. Particulate and dissolved samples were collected in the river during a hydrological year at four stations reflecting the increasing urbanization gradient. Trace element concentrations were measured in the samples using inductively coupled plasma/mass spectrometry (ICP-MS). Daily and annual TE fluxes were calculated at the four stations to evaluate the contribution of urban areas to the total TE exports from the catchment. Results The quantification of TE fluxes showed that up to 70% of particulate Cu, Zn, Sb, and Pb exported by the Orge River originated from the urban areas located in the lower catchment portions, especially during average water flow periods characterized by frequent rain events. Moreover, the results show that 50% of the dissolved fluxes of Cu, Zn, and Pb are supplied by urban areas during the entire year, regardless of hydrological conditions, and that the specific contribution of floods to these fluxes (i.e., the June 2016 event) is lower than that in other catchments because of the continuous supply of dissolved metal fluxes to the river in this urbanized environment. Conclusion These results underline the need to integrate all hydrological conditions for the management of TE contamination in urban areas and not to focus on storm events only. Finally, based on a literature survey, the ratios of specific fluxes were homogeneous across different highly urbanized catchments, and they could be used as a tool to compare the levels of anthropogenic pressure in these contrasted study sites. This observation demonstrates the similar impacts of societal development on urban river geochemistry worldwide, although they occurred during different time periods.
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Claire Froger, Cecile Quantin, Louise Bordier, Gaël Monvoisin, Olivier Evrard, et al.. Quantification of spatial and temporal variations in trace element fluxes originating from urban areas at the catchment scale. Journal of Soils and Sediments, Springer Verlag, inPress, ⟨10.1007/s11368-020-02766-1⟩. ⟨cea-02931332⟩

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