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Chemical composition of lake sediments along a pollution gradient in a Subarctic watercourse.

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Institute of North Industrial Ecology Problems (INEP), Kola Science Centre, Russian Academy of Science, Apatity, Murmansk Region, Russia.


Sediment cores were collected from seven lakes in the Subarctic Pasvik watercourse, polluted by sewage waters and air emissions from the Pechenganickel Metallurgical Company, in order to study chemical composition and estimate the intensity of pollution by taking into account background concentration of elements and the vertical and spatial distribution of their contents in cores and surficial layers of sediments. Sediment samples were analysed by atomic-absorption spectrophotometry for 18 elements (Ni, Cu, Co, Zn, Cd, Pb, Hg, As, Cr, Sr, Mn, Fe, Ca, Mg, Na, K, Al, P). Maximum concentrations of all investigated heavy metals (Ni, Cu, Co, Zn, Cd, Pb, Hg, As) were found in the surficial sediment layers of Lake Kuetsjarvi situated directly below the metallurgic smelters. Decreased contents of heavy metals were observed in surficial sediment layers further downstream in the Pasvik watercourse, although pollution remained rather high. Considerable increase in the contents of the heavy metals emitted into the atmosphere in significant amounts by the Pechenganickel Company (Ni, Cu, Co, Zn), was not observed in surficial sediment layers of lakes upstream in the watercourse polluted only by air contamination and household sewage, but substantial increase of the concentrations of chalcophile elements (Pb, Cd, Hg, As) was revealed. The increase in P contents towards the sediment surface in some lakes may suggest a development of eutrophication processes. Our studies reveal that the metallurgic processing of the Pechenganickel Company has resulted in comprehensive heavy metal pollution and contaminations of lakes sediments in the Inari-Pasvik watercourse. The pollution impact on the sediments is most severe in Lake Kuetsjarvi in the vicinity of the smelters, intermediate in lake localities in the main watercourse downstream the metallurgic enterprises and least in lake localities in the upstream part of the watercourse.

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