Urban areas are a leading source of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) that result from combustion processes and are emitted into rivers, especially during rain events and with particle wash-off from urban surfaces. In-stream transport of suspended particles and attached PAHs is linked strongly to sediment turnover processes. This study aimed to identify particle exchange processes that contribute to the transport of suspended particles during flood events. An urban high-flow signal was tracked in high temporal resolution at two sampling sites in the Ammer River (South-western Germany). Samples were analyzed for turbidity, total suspended solids concentrations (TSS), particle-size distribution, organic carbon, and PAH. Maximum discharge and the highest TSS occurred nearly simultaneously at the upstream sampling site, whereas a temporally shifted course was observed for downstream. The total load of particles was similar, yet a decrease of PAH mass (~28%) and an increase of the particulate organic carbon (POC) content (~3.5%-points) occurred. Coarser particles (≥26 µm) dominated at the beginning of the event at both sampling sites. The signal of remobilized riverbed sediment increases downstream and leads to well-established, robust linear correlations between TSS and PAHs. This study highlights that riverbed sediment acts as intermediate storage for contaminated particles from upstream sources that shape, together with the fresh urban input, the “particle signature” of suspensions moving through catchments during high discharge conditions.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited