Abstract

To determine the sources and pathways of lead (Pb) and zinc (Zn) in river sediments contaminated with metals from mining and smelting activities, metal concentrations and Pb and Zn isotope ratios were measured in river water and sediment, and potential metal contaminant samples (imported Zn concentrates, smelting wastes, soils around the smelter, mine ores, and riverside tailings). Zn and cadmium (Cd) concentrations in river water and sediment samples were 30- and 11-25-fold higher, respectively, near the smelter than upstream, while a 6-fold increase in sediment Pb concentrations was detected over the same region. Sediment samples near the smelter (207Pb/206Pb = 0.8638 and 208Pb/206Pb = 2.0960) were observed to have a different Pb isotopic composition from upstream of the smelter (207Pb/206Pb = 0.8322 and 208Pb/206Pb = 2.0502), with δ66Zn values increasing from -0.01 to 0.82‰. Analysis of Pb and Zn isotopes and concentrations revealed that dust-contaminated soils were a major Pb source, and baseline sediments were found to be contaminated by regional mining tailings. For Zn in sediments, the main Zn sources were groundwater-derived Zn (δ66Zn = 1.02 ± 0.43‰, n = 4), dust-contaminated soils (δ66Zn = -0.18 ± 0.08‰, n = 3), and tailings-contaminated sediments (δ66Zn = 0.01 ± 0.07‰, n = 10). Endmember mixing model results showed that dust-contaminated soils contributed 78% and 64% of sediment Pb and Zn, respectively, within 2km of the Zn smelter, decreasing to negligible levels after 47.1km downstream. Downstream of the smelter, groundwater-derived Zn contributed 54% of sediment Zn, whereas tailings contaminated sediments contributed 70% and 25% of Pb and Zn, respectively.

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