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Use of Paleoflood Deposits to Determine the Contribution of Anthropogenic Trace Metals to Alluvial Sediments in the Hyperarid Rio Loa Basin, Chile

1
Department of Geosciences & Natural Resources, Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, NC 28723, USA
2
Equinox Environmental, Asheville, NC 28801, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Geosciences 2019, 9(6), 244; https://doi.org/10.3390/geosciences9060244
Received: 2 May 2019 / Revised: 24 May 2019 / Accepted: 28 May 2019 / Published: 31 May 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Contaminant Migration Processes in the Environment)
Toxic trace metals are a common and significant contaminant in riverine ecosystems, and are derived from both natural and anthropogenic sources. Determining the contributions of metals from these sources has proven difficult, in part, because physical and biogeochemical processes alter the nature (e.g., grain size, mineral composition, organic matter content) of the source materials as they are transported through the drainage network. This study examined the use of paleoflood deposits located along the hyperarid Rio Salado, a tributary to the Rio Loa of northern Chile, to construct local background functions and enrichment factors (LEFs) to differentiate between natural and anthropogenic metal sources. Significant variations in metal content occurred between river reaches and flood deposits of a given reach; these variations were primarily related to changes in sediment source that may reflect differences in El Niño and La Niña precipitation patterns. Three conservative elements (Al, Fe, Co) were examined to construct background functions for seven trace metals. Cobalt yielded the most effective background functions for As, Cd, Ni, Pb, and Zn; Fe was selected for Cr, and Al for Cu. The resulting LEFs approximated 1, illustrating that paleoflood deposits produced effective background functions, and could be applied to downstream sites contaminated by mining activity. View Full-Text
Keywords: local enrichment factors; background functions; paleoflood deposits; Rio Loa Basin; Chile local enrichment factors; background functions; paleoflood deposits; Rio Loa Basin; Chile
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Miller, J.R.; Walsh, D.; Villarroel, L.F. Use of Paleoflood Deposits to Determine the Contribution of Anthropogenic Trace Metals to Alluvial Sediments in the Hyperarid Rio Loa Basin, Chile. Geosciences 2019, 9, 244.

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