Journal of Soils and Sediments

, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp 973–988 | Cite as

Trace elements and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in road gully sediments from different land uses, Hong Kong

  • K. L. PunEmail author
  • Shuen Law
  • Gang Li
Sediments, Sec 1 • Sediment Quality and Impact Assessment • Research Article



This study investigated the concentrations of cadmium (Cd), chromium (Cr), copper (Cu), lead (Pb), nickel (Ni), zinc (Zn), and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in sediments collected from gully pots for road drainage in Hong Kong. The presence and intensity of anthropogenic contamination of road gully sediments were assessed. Identifications of potential sources of trace elements and PAHs were performed to help understand the situation for future control of pollution to the land and aquatic environments.

Materials and methods

Gully sediment samples were collected from gully pots of 18 roads that are potentially exposed to different pollution sources in Hong Kong. The selection of roads considered different road features, adjacent land uses, and traffic volumes. Composite samples were collected for the analysis of trace elements (Cd, Cr, Cu, Pb, Ni, and Zn) and PAHs by an accredited environmental testing laboratory. Geo-accumulation index (Igeo), contamination factor (Cf), modified degree of contamination (mCd), ecological risk factor (Er), and pollution load index (PLI) were used to assess the level of ecological risk of trace element contamination. Positive matrix factorization (PMF) and PAH diagnostic ratios were applied to identify the sources of trace elements and PAHs.

Results and discussion

Elevated trace element concentrations were commonly found in gully sediments. The concentrations of Zn (267–3700 mg kg−1) were the highest compared to the other trace elements. Noticeable high concentrations of Cu (27–1020 mg kg−1), Pb (21–332 mg kg−1), and Cr (14–439 mg kg−1) were found in all samples. The PAH contents were moderate to high (0.6 to 24.7 mg kg−1). Commercial/industrial emissions and road features that cause frequent acceleration-deceleration and turning events showed important influences on the contaminant levels. Strong correlations between the concentrations of Cd, Cr, Pb, and Zn were identified, implying that these trace elements are likely from common sources. The contamination assessment indices reflect significant sediment pollution. The ecological risk ranges from the considerable/moderate-risk class to over the high-risk class.


The collected gully sediments are identified as highly contaminated and need to be isolated from the environment upon final disposal. Through the comprehensive analysis of the collected data, this study provides a detailed insight into the contaminant levels of road gully sediments and potential sources of contamination. Disposal of gully sediments and potential impacts due to release of contaminants into the downstream aquatic environment during rainstorm events should receive attention and need further investigation.


Gully sediments Hong Kong PAHs Trace elements 


Funding information

Support for this project was provided by the Research Grant Council under the Inter-Institutional Development Scheme (IIDS), Ref. No. UGC/IIDS13/E02/14.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Construction Technology and EngineeringTechnological and Higher Education Institute of Hong KongTsing Yi IslandHong Kong
  2. 2.Department of Civil and Natural Resources EngineeringUniversity of CanterburyChristchurchNew Zealand
  3. 3.Department of Civil EngineeringChu Hai College of Higher EducationTuen MunHong Kong

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