Environmental Earth Sciences

, Volume 61, Issue 7, pp 1493–1503 | Cite as

Heavy metal mobility assessment in sediments from the Odiel River (Iberian Pyritic Belt) using sequential extraction

  • Rafael BeltránEmail author
  • J. D. de la Rosa
  • J. C. Santos
  • M. Beltrán
  • J. L. Gómez-Ariza
Original Article


The Tessier sequential extraction scheme (SES) was applied to sediments from the Odiel river catchment (Iberian Pyritic Belt, SW of Spain), one of the most acid rivers on Earth, to assess the chemical association (exchangeable, carbonatic, bound to manganese and iron oxides, bound to organic matter and residual mineral) of heavy metals (Zn, Cd, Pb, Cu, Cr, Mn, Ni, Fe, and Hg). Sediments are very heterogeneous in their textural characteristics, showing different grain size. Twenty-seven samples were studied from from areas along the Odiel River, from the source to the mouth, with special interest in the Odiel Marshes Natural Park due to its ecological significance. Samples were classified as sandy (especially at the river mouth with low iron oxide and organic matter content) and clay-silty (in the middle of the river catchment with high iron oxide content). The numerous sandy samples with low pH values explain the low levels of metals upstream, although potential metals contributions arise from mining and ore. However, the presence of sulfate in the mining area and carbonate at the mouth may explain the high presence of lead and iron in these sandy zones. Some percentage of mobile Ni, Cu, and Zn were detected in the mining area, but the elevated relative percentage of exchangeable Cd in the estuary is even more remarkable. The percentage of Zn bound to carbonate is considerable in the catchment but especially in the estuary. However, Cu is only detected in the carbonate phase downstream, in spite of the low concentration of carbonate, which represents a drawback in the application of the Tessier SES to these types of samples. Finally, relatively high percentages of residual, non-mobile, Hg and Pb were observed, in the estuarine and mining areas, respectively. Sand, lime, and clay fractions of representative samples from Areas I, II, and III were used in a metal speciation study. Mainly, the elements analyzed had accumulated in the non-residual fractions. In the mining area of the Pyrite Belt, the elements analyzed are mainly bound to Fe–Mn oxides (Fe + Mn + Cu + Cr + Pb + Mn ± Zn) and the organic matter/sulfide fraction (Ni + Zn + Hg ± Cd), independent of sediment grain size. In conclusion, we show that the results of the study of chemical speciation in sediments from acid rivers are independent of the sediment grain size considered.


Sediments Acid river Metals Iberian Pyritic Belt 



Critical comments by an anonymous referee considerably improved the original manuscript. Mrs. Ana García Lagares is thanked for the review of the English manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rafael Beltrán
    • 1
    Email author
  • J. D. de la Rosa
    • 2
  • J. C. Santos
    • 1
  • M. Beltrán
    • 1
  • J. L. Gómez-Ariza
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Chemistry and Material SciencesUniversity of HuelvaHuelvaSpain
  2. 2.Department of GeologyUniversity of HuelvaHuelvaSpain

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