Journal of Soils and Sediments

, Volume 10, Issue 6, pp 1174–1185 | Cite as

Impact of contaminants bound to suspended particulate matter in the context of flood events

  • Jan Wölz
  • Michael Fleig
  • Tobias Schulze
  • Sibylle Maletz
  • Urte Lübcke-von Varel
  • Georg Reifferscheid
  • Dirk Kühlers
  • Thomas Braunbeck
  • Werner Brack
  • Henner Hollert



The presented study investigated on contamination of suspended particulate matter (SPM) in rivers that was sampled long-term and with higher frequency during a flood event at the river Rhine. It was conducted to determine in vitro biological effects as well as to identify and quantify compound classes and effective contaminants. Research was part of investigation on hazards of contaminants bound to SPM to inundated sites and retention areas that are inundated during flood events.

Material and methods

SPM was sampled in 2006 and more frequently in a flood event (August, 2007) at the river Rhine barrage of Iffezheim, Germany. SPM was GC-MS analyzed for hexachlorobenzene (HCB), several polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) as well as for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Flood samples were fractionated applying a recently developed automated fractionation method to receive further insight into contaminant loads in flood SPM. Impacts on biological scale were assessed using in vitro biotests for xenometabolic 7-ethoxyresorufin-o-deethylase (EROD) assay as well as for mutagenic activity (Ames fluctuation assay). EROD induction was calculated as biological equivalent concentrations (bio-TEQs) and mutagenic potentials were shown as NOECs and maximum induction factors.

Results and discussion

Chemical analysis gave low concentrations of PCBs (2006 and 2007) and HCB (2006). HCB concentrations increased during the flood in 2007 (maximum, 110 µg/kg SPM). Concentrations of PCBs were only initially elevated in the flood (maximum, 67 µg/kg SPM). EROD induction bio-TEQs ranged from 1,160 to 6,640 pg/g SPM in 2006 and showed maximum bio-TEQ at the peak discharge in 2007. There was no mutagenic activity with SPM of both years. Fractionation indicated highest EROD induction in PAH fractions with prioritized (EPA-) PAHs contributing to less than 1% to the fractions total bio-TEQ but also fractions containing more polar-to-polar substances were shown to contribute minor. Furthermore, more polar fractions were mutagenic active with SPM sampled after the peak of discharge (IFmax = 14.7).


Contaminants bound to flood SPM can be hazardous to inundated retention areas. Concentrations can be assumed to be increasing correlated with discharge and, thus, with more extreme flood events. Furthermore, biological effects are elevated or first place appearing with SPM from floods. Hazards have to be expected not only from persistent and non-polar substances but alike from less persistent and more polar ones that, furthermore, are more relevant evaluating hazards to drinking water resources from public well fields.


Ames fluctuation assay Dioxin-like EROD assay Flood Effect-directed analysis Suspended particulate matter 



The authors would like to express their thanks to Drs. Niels C. Bols and Lucy Lee (University of Waterloo, Canada) for providing RTL-W1 cells. We thank Kerstin Winkens, Anne Schneider, Susanne Miller, Conny Bernecker, and Ulrike Diehl for assistance with conducting biotests and Angela Sperreuter for technical assistance with fractionation. We also thank the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), Germany, for supporting the RIMAX-HoT project within the RIMAX joint No. 02WH0691. Furthermore, the presented work was partly supported by the European Commission through the Integrated Project MODELKEY (contract-no. 511237-GOCE).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jan Wölz
    • 1
  • Michael Fleig
    • 2
  • Tobias Schulze
    • 3
  • Sibylle Maletz
    • 1
  • Urte Lübcke-von Varel
    • 3
  • Georg Reifferscheid
    • 4
  • Dirk Kühlers
    • 5
  • Thomas Braunbeck
    • 6
  • Werner Brack
    • 3
  • Henner Hollert
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Ecosystem Analysis, Institute for Environmental ResearchRWTH Aachen UniversityAachenGermany
  2. 2.Chemical Analysis DepartmentDVGW-Water Technology Center (TZW)KarlsruheGermany
  3. 3.Department of Effect-Directed AnalysesUFZ Helmholtz Centre for Environmental ResearchLeipzigGermany
  4. 4.German Federal Institute for HydrologyKoblenzGermany
  5. 5.Stadtwerke Karlsruhe GmbH (SWK)KarlsruheGermany
  6. 6.Department of Zoology, Aquatic Toxicology and Ecology SectionUniversity of HeidelbergHeidelbergGermany

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