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Serpentine geology links to water quality and heavy metals in sediments of a stream system in central Queensland, Australia

journal contribution
posted on 2018-07-13, 00:00 authored by Leo Duivenvoorden, DT Roberts, Gail TuckerGail Tucker
Serpentinite soils, common throughout the world, are characterized by low calcium-to-magnesium ratios, low nutrient levels and elevated levels of heavy metals. Yet the water quality and heavy metal concentrations in sediments of streams draining serpentine geology have been little studied. The aim of this work was to collect baseline data on the water quality (for both wet and dry seasons) and metals in sediments at 11 sites on the Marlborough Creek system, which drains serpentine soils in coastal central Queensland, Australia. Water quality of the system was characterized by extremely hard waters (555–698 mg/L as CaCO3), high dissolved salts (684–1285 mg/L), pH (8.3–9.1) and dissolved oxygen (often >110% saturation). Cationic dominance was Mg > Na > Ca > K and for anions HCO3 > Cl > SO4. Al, Cu and Zn in stream waters were naturally high and exceeded Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council guidelines. Conductivity displayed the highest seasonal variability, decreasing significantly after wet season flows. There was little seasonal variation in pH, which often exceeded regional guidelines. Stream sediments were enriched with concentrations of Ni, Cr, Co and Zn up to 35, 21, 10 and 2 times the world average for shallow sediments, respectively. Concentrations for Ni and Cr were up to 60 and 16 times those of the relevant Interim Sediment Quality Guidelines Low Trigger Values, respectively. The distinctive nature of the water and sediment data suggests that it would be appropriate to establish more localized water quality and sediment guidelines for the creek system for the water quality parameters conductivity, Cu and Zn (and possibly Cr and Cd also), and for sediment concentrations of Cd, Cr and Ni. © 2017, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.






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Springer, Germany

Peer Reviewed

  • Yes

Open Access

  • No

External Author Affiliations

SEQWater, Ipswich, QLD

Era Eligible

  • Yes


Environmental Earth Sciences