Phase partitioning of trace metals in a contaminated estuary influenced by industrial effluent discharge

Research output: Journal Publications and ReviewsRGC 21 - Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

42 Scopus Citations
View graph of relations



Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-44
Journal / PublicationEnvironmental Pollution
Online published8 Apr 2016
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2016
Externally publishedYes


Severe trace metal pollution due to industrial effluents releases was found in Jiulong River Estuary, Southern China. In this study, water samples were collected during effluent release events to study the dynamic changes of environmental conditions and metal partitioning among dissolved, particulate and colloidal phases controlled by estuarine mixing. Intermittent effluent discharges during low tide caused decreasing pH and dissolved oxygen, and induced numerous suspended particulate materials and dissolved organic carbon to the estuary. Different behaviors of Cu, Zn, Ni, Cr and Pb in the dissolved fraction against the conservative index salinity indicated different sources, e.g., dissolved Ni from the intermittent effluent. Although total metal concentrations increased markedly following effluent discharges, Cu, Zn, Cr, Pb were predominated by the particulate fraction. Enhanced adsorption onto particulates in the mixing process resulted in elevated partitioning coefficient (Kd) values for Cu and Zn, and the particle concentration effect was not obvious under such anthropogenic impacts. Colloidal proportion of these metals (especially Cu and Zn) showed positive correlations with dissolved or colloidal organic carbon, suggesting the metal-organic complexation. However, the calculated colloidal partitioning coefficients were relatively constant, indicating the excess binding capacity. Overall, the intermittent effluent discharge altered the particulate/dissolved and colloidal/soluble phase partitioning process and may further influence the bioavailability and potential toxicity to aquatic organisms.

Research Area(s)

  • Colloidal, Industrial effluent, Particulate, River estuary, Trace metal