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Determining the history and sources of contaminants in the Tamar Estuary, Tasmania, Australia, using 210Pb dating and stable Pb isotope analyses


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Seen, AJ, Townsend, AT, Atkinson, B, Ellison, JC and Heijnis, H 2004 , 'Determining the history and sources of contaminants in the Tamar Estuary, Tasmania, Australia, using 210Pb dating and stable Pb isotope analyses' , Environmental Chemistry, vol. 1, no. 1 , pp. 49-54 , doi: 10.1071/EN04011.

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Environmental Context. Dating estuary sediments provides insights into the materials entering the estuary and can pinpoint when the contamination occurred. Heavy metal contamination is a known health risk but attributing it to a source can be contentious. For a sample sourced downstream of a city and a mining region, lead-210 dating and stable lead isotope analyses uncovered the sources of lead inputs. These methods quantified the extent that upstream mining activities and, for the first time, the extent that non-mining inputs (vehicles, industry) contributed to the estuary's pollution.

Abstract. 210Pb dating and heavy metal analyses (Cd, Cu, Pb, Zn) have been combined to establish an historical profile of pollutant levels in sediments in the Tamar Estuary (Tasmania, Australia) over the past century. Heavy metal profiles through the core show a strong correlation with mining activities and industrialization during the past century, reflecting catchment disturbance in one of Australia's earliest settled areas. A source apportionment of Pb in the sediment core using stable Pb isotope ratios (204Pb, 206Pb, 207Pb, 208Pb) shows that mine pollution has been contributing 10-25 mg kg-1 to Tamar Estuary sediments since the start of mining in the early 1890s, whilst non-mining inputs were not significant until post-1930 and became increasingly significant post-World War II. Since the 1950s-1960s, non-mining anthropogenic Pb inputs have become as significant as Pb from mining activities, although there does appear to be a decline in non-mining inputs during the past 20 years, which is consistent with findings elsewhere where reductions in atmospheric Pb levels have been observed and are attributed to the phasing-out of leaded gasoline. The source apportionment does, however, suggest that Pb from mine pollution at Storys and Aberfoyle Creeks continues to impact upon upper Tamar Estuary sediment quality.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Seen, AJ and Townsend, AT and Atkinson, B and Ellison, JC and Heijnis, H
Keywords: ontaminant deposition, geochemistry (inorganic), lead, source characterization
Journal or Publication Title: Environmental Chemistry
ISSN: 1448-2517
DOI / ID Number: 10.1071/EN04011
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