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Chemical characterisation of dredged sediments in relation to their potential use in civil engineering


During capital and/or maintenance dredging operations, large amounts of material are produced. Instead of their discharge, dredged sediments may be a valuable natural resource if not contaminated. One of the possible areas of application is civil engineering. In the present work, the environmental status of seaport dredged sediment was evaluated in order to investigate its potential applicability as a secondary raw material. Sediments were analysed for element concentrations in digested samples, aqueous extracts and fractions from sequential extraction; for fluoride, chloride and sulphate concentrations in aqueous extracts; and for tributyltin (TBT). Granulometric and mineralogical compositions were also analysed. The elemental impact was evaluated by calculation of the enrichment factors. The total element concentrations determined showed moderate contamination of the dredged sediments as was confirmed also by their moderate enrichment factors, presumably as a result of industrial and port activities. Elemental concentrations in the aqueous extract were very low and therefore do not represent any hazard for the environment. The water-soluble element concentrations were under the threshold levels set by the EU Directive on the landfill of waste, on the basis of which the applicability of dredged sediments in civil engineering is evaluated, while the content of chloride and sulphate were above the threshold levels. It was found out that due to the large amounts of sediment available, civil engineering applications such as the construction of embankments and backfilling is the most beneficial recycling solution at present.

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This work was supported by the Ministry of Higher Education, Science and Technology of the Republic of Slovenia (Programme group P1-0143) and Project L1-4311. We thank Dr. Anthony R. Byrne for linguistic corrections and suggestions.

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Correspondence to Tea Zuliani.

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Zuliani, T., Mladenovič, A., Ščančar, J. et al. Chemical characterisation of dredged sediments in relation to their potential use in civil engineering. Environ Monit Assess 188, 234 (2016).

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  • Dredged marine sediment
  • Pollutants
  • Leaching test
  • Sequential extraction
  • Environmental assessment