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Ectogenic Meromixis of Lake Hallstättersee, Austria Induced by Waste Water Intrusions from Salt Mining

Abstract

Lake Hallstättersee is a holomictic alpine lake, which is influenced by salt mining since the middle Bronze Age. Beside the constant saline waste water load, two massive brine spills loaded the lake with additional 16,900 tons sodium chloride (≈10,250 tons Cl) from 1977 to 1979 and 3,000 tons salt (≈1,820 tons Cl) in 2005. The effect of waste water intrusions from salt mining on stratification of Lake Hallstättersee was analysed over a period of 40 years. Water density, dissolved oxygen and total phosphorus (TP) concentrations were measured and an exponential model was fitted to describe the wash-out of chloride from Lake Hallstättersee after the brine spills. Furthermore, the time required returning to holomixis and steady chloride content after the second brine spill was estimated. During the whole sampling period the minimum and maximum volume-weighted annual mean chloride concentrations were 23.58 mg/L in 1979 and 3.19 mg/L in 1998. However, the mixing regime of Lake Hallstättersee, as well as the chloride concentrations, varied considerably and exhibited three holomictic and three meromictic periods between 1970 and 2009. Holomictic periods were observed when the yearly density gradient was below 0.06 kg/m3, deepwater oxygen in spring above 4 mg/L and consequently declining TP concentration in the deepest water layer below 60 mg/m3, otherwise meromictic periods were observed. Our study showed that Hallstättersee was 13 years ectogenic meromictic and 27 years holomictic during the study period.

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Acknowledgements

Thanks to the laboratory and sampling team of the Federal Agency for Water Management, Institute for Freshwater Ecology, Fisheries Management and Lake Research in Scharfling, Mondsee for collecting the data and furthermore to the SALINE Austria AG for providing additional information about the salt production.

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Correspondence to Harald Ficker.

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Ficker, H., Gassner, H., Achleitner, D. et al. Ectogenic Meromixis of Lake Hallstättersee, Austria Induced by Waste Water Intrusions from Salt Mining. Water Air Soil Pollut 218, 109–120 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11270-010-0627-2

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11270-010-0627-2

Keywords

  • Brine spill
  • Chloride wash-out
  • Density gradient
  • Long-term sampling data
  • Mixing regime
  • Oxygen depletion