Assessment of metal toxicity and development of sediment quality guidelines using the equilibrium partitioning model for the Three Gorges Reservoir, China

Abstract

The impoundment of the Three Gorges Reservoir (TGR) in China influences the quality of the water supply. Surface sediment samples from the TGR mainstream and three tributaries were collected. Acid volatile sulfide (AVS), simultaneously extractable metals (SEMs), and the fraction of organic carbon (foc) were used to assess the toxicity of heavy metals. Sediment quality guidelines (SQGs) were established using the equilibrium partitioning approach. The results showed that the surface sediments were found to be oxic or suboxic. AVS concentrations in sediments were relatively low, below SEM concentrations. The [SEM] − [AVS] model indicated that all sediments possibly have adverse effects on aquatic life. However, ([SEM] − [AVS])/foc predicted no adverse biological effects in some areas of the Meixi and Caotang Rivers, while adverse effects to aquatic life were uncertain for the other sediments. The partitioning coefficients, water quality criteria, and residual metals in the sediments were the main factors influencing the SQGs for the TGR, while the metals bound to AVS had a negligible effect. The normalized TGR SQGs were all much higher than the existing standards except for cadmium and copper. The differences might be attributed to the approaches used for derivation of SQGs and the physical and chemical characteristics of the sediments.

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Acknowledgments

This work was jointly supported by the Special Scientific Fund sponsored by the Chinese Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research (Grant No. HJ1506), the Open Research Fund of State Key Laboratory of Simulation and Regulation of Water Cycle in River Basin, China Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research (Grant No. 2014QN02, 2014RC08), and the China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (Grant No. 2014 T70094, 2013 M530668).

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Correspondence to Bo Gao.

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Gao, L., Gao, B., Wei, X. et al. Assessment of metal toxicity and development of sediment quality guidelines using the equilibrium partitioning model for the Three Gorges Reservoir, China. Environ Sci Pollut Res 22, 17577–17585 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-015-4959-8

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Keywords

  • Heavy metal
  • Sediment
  • Acid volatile sulfide
  • Simultaneously extractable metals
  • Equilibrium partitioning
  • Sediment quality guideline
  • Three Gorges Reservoir