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Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) and Heavy Metal Occurrence in Bed Sediments of a Temporary River

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The directive 2008/105/EC suggests the use of sediment or biota matrix for long-term monitoring of specific priority pollutants that tend to accumulate. But, the intermittent nature of flow in the majority of the Mediterranean rivers results in large variability of biological communities and especially fish, making advantageous the examination of pollution trend in sediment matrix and not in living organisms (biota). In this study, sediment environmental quality standards (EQSs) and sediment quality indicators (SQIs) were used to assess pollution by heavy metals (cadmium, nickel, lead, mercury, arsenic, chromium, copper, and zinc) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in Evrotas River, South Greece, monitored seasonally for 2 years (2009–2010) in five sampling sites. The results showed that, based on SQIs (geoaccumulation index (Igeo), enrichment factor (EF), and modified degree of contamination (mCd)), sediments of the Evrotas River can be classified as “low polluted,” with some exceptions of “extreme pollution.” EQS assessment revealed heavy metal pollution ranging from “low” to “medium high.” Furthermore, based on the Hakanson’s ecological risk index (RI) method, heavy metal potential risk was classified from “low” to “extreme.” Cadmium showed the highest RI values, while mercury reached “moderate” pollution level. The average ΣPAH concentration (24.4 ng g−1) was lower than both the reported EQSs and the values found in literature for unpolluted or moderately polluted river sediments. Increased heavy metal and PAH concentrations were found in sites where mixing of freshwater with reclaimed water occurred. EQSs are suggested to be supplemented with the RI or EF index that consider the natural background to assist a first ecorisk assessment and should be foreseen by 2008/105/EC directive. Sediments can be considered as a valuable matrix in assessing the spatial and temporal trends of several contaminants and should be included in the monitoring program of temporary river management plans. Special attention should be given when defining reference sites and the sampling period. Decreasing flow period at the beginning of the spring prevailed in order to diminish any disturbance by flash flood events.

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The research reported here received funding from the European Community’s Seventh Framework Program (FP7/2007-2011) under grant agreement 211732 (MIRAGE project. We would like to thanks Vassilis Papadoulakis (Lakonia Prefecture, GR) and Leonidas Vardakas (HCMR, GR) for assisting in sediment sampling, Sarou Maria-Lilly (TUC) for heavy metal analysis, and Stefano Polesello (IRSA) for helpful discussion and draft revision.

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Correspondence to O. Tzoraki.

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Tzoraki, O., Karaouzas, I., Patrolecco, L. et al. Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) and Heavy Metal Occurrence in Bed Sediments of a Temporary River. Water Air Soil Pollut 226, 421 (2015).

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  • WFD
  • EQSs
  • Sediment
  • Heavy metals
  • PAHs
  • Priority substances
  • Temporary rivers