Assessment of lead and beryllium sorption to exposed stream channel sediment under varying freshwater channel conditions

Ethan D. Pawlowski, Diana L. Karwan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Purpose: Beryllium (Be) and lead (Pb) sorption is important to the utility of the radioisotopes of these elements for sediment fingerprinting. This paper examines the sorption of Be and Pb exposed to fluvial sediment under varying chemical conditions representative of freshwater streams draining two distinct Critical Zone environments in the eastern United States: the mid-Atlantic piedmont and heavily glaciated Great Lakes region. Materials and methods: Batch experiments were completed using well-characterized in-stream deposit sediments collected from these two systems and varying solutions to reflect background and elevated levels of iron oxide in the form of goethite across times ranging from 0.25 to 360 h. The mid-Atlantic piedmont sediment had further treatments testing dissolved organic carbon and increased sediment to solution ratio effects on Pb and Be sorption. Results and discussion: Beryllium partition coefficients (Kd) ranged from a log Kd of 1.46 to 3.48 L kg−1 and Pb ranged from 0 to 5.03 L kg−1 across all treatments displaying several noticeable patterns. Two-stage sorption was observed such that sorption increased over time across all treatments and substrates. Goethite additions either enhanced or reduced sorption relative to the unaltered treatment depending on the original sediment and mixing time. Lead sorption with the addition of 100 mg of goethite increased during shorter mixing times before being surpassed by the unaltered, or base, treatment at longer mixing times for both the mid-Atlantic piedmont and glaciated Great Lakes sediment. Beryllium sorption was increased with the mid-Atlantic piedmont sediment whereas it was primarily decreased with the glaciated Great Lakes sediment. The 1 mg of goethite generally showed equal to or slightly enhanced sorption relative to the base setup of both Pb and Be with the exception of Pb sorption to the Great Lakes sediment. The highest DOC concentration tested of 11.86 mg L−1 retained a greater amount of Be and Pb in solution compared to other treatments after 360 h. Increasing the sediment to solution ratio showed decreased partition coefficients across all analogous times for Be compared to the base treatment whereas Pb sorption surpassed the unaltered treatment after 24 h. Conclusions: These results suggest that fluvial sediment mineralogy, organic matter concentration, and biogeochemical cycling of common stream chemical constituents may play a role in the mobilization or retention of these two trace metals and alter their utility for sediment fingerprinting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3397-3410
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Soils and Sediments
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.


  • Beryllium
  • Lead
  • Sediment
  • Sorption


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