Physical and geochemical characterisation of canal sediments in the Black Country, West Midlands.
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Williams, Craig D.
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AbstractPotentially harmful elements (PHEs) have been researched in a wide variety of disciplines, including pedology, chemistry, pollution science and medicine. Within the scientific community, emphasis has usually been placed on the toxic elements, such as cadmium, chromium, lead and arsenic, but rarely has there been consideration of interactions between PHEs, the sediment matrix and processes occurring in the sediments. Dredging of canals is needed for navigability purposes and consequently testing of dredged sediments (to assess whether sediments are hazardous) and landfilling can be costly for British Waterways facing constantly changing regulations and reduction in government grants. PHE mobility and availability in canal sediments can be affected by oxygen availability, pH and Redox. Remediation is thus becoming a priority for British Waterways to limit their operational costs. Zeolites, a type of remediation tool, have been widely studied in the past 30 years due to their attractive properties, such as molecular-sieving, high cation exchange capacities and their affinity for PHEs. The pilot study to investigate the efficiency of the clinoptilolite showed that there was a concentration difference between PHEs adsorbed by the clinoptilolite and the PHE concentration lost from the sediments from three sites in the West Midlands. Thorough characterisation of the sediments was needed to understand the speciation of the PHEs and the secondary processes occurring in the sediments. The different components of the sediments were analysed using various analytical methods, such as X-Ray Fluorescence spectroscopy (XRF), particle size and X-ray Diffraction (XRD) for the solid-inorganic phase, Ion Chromatography (IC) and Inductively Coupled Plasma-Optical Emissions Spectroscopy (ICP-OES) for the liquid phase (pore water), Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS) and organic loss on ignition for the organic phase, pH and Redox for the electrochemistry of the sediments and Scanning Electron Microscope with Energy Dispersive X-Ray analysis (SEM-EDX) for microscopy and imaging. The British Geological Survey (BGS) sequential extraction method was used to investigate the different phases in the sediments. pH remained near neutral for all three sites and Redox remained anoxic. Organic contents for all three sites were around 30% and contained most of the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons considered hazardous. Pore water showed only high concentrations of sulphates but low concentrations of PHEs, suggesting PHEs were not mobile. Sequential extraction confirmed the other results showing that PHEs were mainly associated with stable phases, such as iron and manganese oxides or sulphides. The results have been taken into consideration to design a new remediation strategy to maximise efficiency of the zeolite.
PublisherUniversity of Wolverhampton
TypeThesis or dissertation
DescriptionA thesis submitted in fulfilment of the requirements of the University of Wolverhampton for the award of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)