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Sampling of suspended particulate matter using particle traps in the Rhône River: Relevance and representativeness for the monitoring of contaminants

Abstract : Monitoring hydrophobic contaminants in surface freshwaters requires measuring contaminant concentrations in the particulate fraction (sediment or suspended particulate matter, SPM) of the water column. Particle traps (PTs) have been recently developed to sample SPM as cost-efficient, easy to operate and time-integrative tools. But the representativeness of SPM collected with PTs is not fully understood, notably in terms of grain size distribution and particulate organic carbon (POC) content, which could both skew particulate contaminant concentrations. The aim of this study was to evaluate the representativeness of SPM characteristics (i.e. grain size distribution and POC content) and associated contaminants (i.e. polychlorinated biphenyls, PCBs; mercury, Hg) in samples collected in a large river using PTs for differing hydrological conditions. Samples collected using PTs (n = 74) were compared with samples collected during the same time period by continuous flow centrifugation (CFC). The grain size distribution of PT samples shifted with increasing water discharge: the proportion of very fine silts (2-6 µm) decreased while that of coarse silts (27-74 µm) increased. Regardless of water discharge, POC contents were different likely due to integration by PT of high POC-content phytoplankton blooms or low POC-content flood events. Differences in PCBs and Hg concentrations were usually within the range of analytical uncertainties and could not be related to grain size or POC content shifts. Occasional Hg-enriched inputs may have led to higher Hg concentrations in a few PT samples (n = 4) which highlights the time-integrative capacity of the PTs. The differences of annual Hg and PCB fluxes calculated either from PT samples or CFC samples were generally below 20%. Despite some inherent limitations (e.g. grain size distribution bias), our findings suggest that PT sampling is a valuable technique to assess reliable spatial and temporal trends of particulate contaminants such as PCBs and Hg within a river monitoring network.
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M. Masson, H. Angot, C. Le Bescond, M. Launay, Aymeric Dabrin, et al.. Sampling of suspended particulate matter using particle traps in the Rhône River: Relevance and representativeness for the monitoring of contaminants. Science of the Total Environment, Elsevier, 2018, 637-638, pp.538-549. ⟨10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.04.343⟩. ⟨hal-02015899⟩

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