Assessment of diffuse pollution originating from estuarine historical landfills
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The UK contains 5000 unlined historical landfills in the coastal zone currently at risk of erosion within the next 50 years. These rely on natural attenuation in surrounding sediment to reduce the contaminant load to the environment. This thesis investigates the extent and magnitude of sediment metal contamination from historical estuarine landfills. An intensive investigation of Newlands historical landfill, Essex, indicated elevated metal concentrations in surface and sub-surface sediments. Surface sediment concentrations were similar to other industrially impacted estuaries, whilst peak metal concentrations at c. 50 cm depth were indicative of industrial activity in the mid-20th Century. Below this depth, sediments were enriched with Pb (EF > 2) and Zn (EF = 1.5) indicative of an historic leachate plume that extends c. 15 m from the landfill site boundary. These sediments present a secondary source of diffuse pollution and a site contamination load of c. 1200 kg Pb. In-situ XRF was demonstrated as a rapid contamination screening tool for Fe, Pb, Sr and Zn enabling a broad-scale investigation of historical landfills across SE England. Sediment cores from eight sites containing both hazardous and inert waste were screened. Concentrations and EFs of Pb and Zn at depth were significantly higher in hazardous sites compared to inert sites. Spatial distributions of Pb and Zn were comparable to Newlands historical landfill. This indicates that diffuse pollution from historical landfill sites with similar chemical and physical attributes to Newlands is likely to present a regional, if not national problem, with UK historical landfills presenting contaminated sediments, comprising a significant, previously unidentified and unquantified diffuse pollution source in the coastal zone.
AuthorsO’Shea, Francis Timothy
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