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Sediments function as “sinks” for various kinds of contaminants (pollutants and nonpollutants) discharged into the receiving waters. Toxic pollutants in the sediments constitute a significant concern inasmuch as they can infect the waters above the sediment if they are released from the sediments. Hence the persistence and fate of these toxic pollutants need to be determined. At least two sets of interests can be identified in the contamination of sediments as a whole: (1) assessment of the “storage” capacity (for contaminants) of the sediments, and the potential for “mobilization” or release of contaminants into the aqueous environment, particularly into the overlying water, and (2) development of a strategy for removal of the contaminants from the sediments that would be most appropriate (i.e., compatible with the manner in which the contaminants are retained in the sediment) and cost-effective. Both sets of interests require a knowledge of the distribution of the contaminants, i.e., characterization of the contaminants contained in the sediment, and the manner in which these are “held” within the sediment, i.e., “bonded” to the various sediment solid fractions (constituents).
persistence, fate, toxic pollutants, heavy metals, organic chemicals, selectivity, partitioning, functional groups, adsorption
William Scott Professor of Civil Engineering and Applied Mechanics, and scientific director, Geotechnical Research Centre, McGill University, Montreal,