Original Paper

Aquatic Geochemistry

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 151-172

First online:

Determination of Free Cd, Cu and Zn Concentrations in Lake Waters by In Situ Diffusion Followed by Column Equilibration Ion-exchange

  • C. FortinAffiliated withINRS-Eau, Terre et Environnement, Université du Québec Email author 
  • , Y. CouillardAffiliated withEcological Assessment Division, Environment Canada
  • , B. VigneaultAffiliated withNatural Resources Canada
  • , P. G. C. CampbellAffiliated withINRS-Eau, Terre et Environnement, Université du Québec

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Combining in situ diffusion and column ion-exchange equilibration, we measured free metal ion concentrations (Cd, Cu and Zn) in water samples collected from the epilimnion of 14 lakes in the Rouyn-Noranda area (600 km north-west of Montreal, QC, Canada). Lakes were selected to represent a wide range of physico-chemical characteristics (hardness, pH, dissolved organic matter—DOM, degree of metal contamination), to determine the influence of these parameters on metal speciation. Total dissolved metal concentrations, as determined within the diffusion cells, varied over one to two orders of magnitude: [Cd] 0.19–2.9 nM; [Cu] 36–190 nM; [Zn] 7–2,800 nM. The proportion of total dissolved metal present as free Cd2+ and Zn2+ was relatively constant for the 14 selected lakes, despite the wide pH (4.5–8) and DOM (3–23 mg C/L) ranges, probably reflecting the inverse relationship observed between pH and DOM; this proportion did, however, vary with DOM and pH for Cu. Our experimental free metal ion concentrations were compared with those calculated with the thermodynamic models WHAM (Windermere Humic Aqueous Model VI) and ECOSAT 4.7 (incorporating the NICA-Donnan model). Measured and calculated values were in reasonable agreement for both Cd and Zn although measured values were generally slightly higher, i.e. less than one order of magnitude. For several lakes, measured free Cu concentrations were, however, much higher than the calculated values, suggesting that these models overestimate Cu complexation. The gap between measured and calculated free metal ion concentration becomes more important as the total metal concentration decreases and as pH increases.


Metal speciation In situ diffusion sampling Lake water WHAM model NICA-Donnan model Dissolved organic matter