, Volume 31, Issue 1-2, pp 85-93

Geochemistry of Cu, Co, Ni, Zn, Cd and Cr in the surficial sediments of a tropical estuary, southwest coast of India: a granulometric approach

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 Geochemical characteristics of six trace metals – Cu, Co, Ni, Zn, Cd and Cr – in the bulk sediment and sand, silt and clay fractions of a tropical estuary on the southwest coast of India have been studied and discussed. In bulk sediment, the trace metal concentration is controlled mainly by the textural composition of the sample. Mud, sandy mud and sandy silt register higher concentrations of trace metals than that in sand-dominant sediments. The granulometric partitioning studies also re-affirmed the role of particle size in enriching the trace metals. The silt and clay fractions exhibit 7–8 times the enrichment of Cu and Cd compared to that in sand. The enrichment factors of Zn, Cr, Ni and Co in the silt and clay fractions, compared to that in sand, are 5–6, 4–5, 2–5 and 2–3 times, respectively. The trace metals in the sand fraction, particularly Ni and Cr, exhibit strong positive correlation with the heavy mineral content of the samples. It clearly indicates a heavy mineral pathway to the trace metals in the sand fraction. Cu and Co in silt and clay fractions exhibit a marked decrease towards the high saline zones of the estuary. This is attributed to the desorption of Cu and Co from particulate phases during estuarine mixing. Contrary to Cu and Co, the content of Zn in the clay fraction shows a marginal increase towards the estuarine mouth. This could be explained by the influx of Zn-rich contaminant discharges from Zn-smelting industries located slightly north of the estuarine mouth. The released Zn will effectively be held in the lattices of the clay mineral montmorillonite, which also exhibits a marked increase towards the estuarine mouth. The anomalously high values of Cd in some places of the Central Vembanad estuary is attributed to the local pollution.

Received: 10 July 1995 · Accepted: 3 June 1996