Sediments are an important sink for heavy metal pollutants on account of their strong adsorption capacity. Elevated content of Cu was observed in the Chengdao area of the Yellow River Delta, where the surface sediment is mainly silt and is prone to be liquefied under hydrodynamic forces. The vertical transport of fine particles, along with pore water seepage, during the liquefaction process could promote the migration and diffusion of Cu from the interior of sediment. The present study involved a series of wave flume experiments to simulate the migration and diffusion of Cu from the interior of sediment in the subaqueous Yellow River Delta area under wave actions. The results indicated that sediment liquefaction significantly promoted the release of Cu from internal sediment to overlying water. The variations of Cu concentrations in the overlying water were opposite to the suspended sediment concentrations (SSCs). The sediment liquefaction caused high initial rises of SSCs, but led to a rapid decline of dissolved Cu concentration at the initial period of sediment liquefaction due to the adsorption by fine particles. Afterwards, the SSCs slightly increased and then gradually decreased. Meanwhile, the dissolved Cu concentration generally kept increasing under combined effects of intensively mix of sediment and overlying water, pore water seepage, and desorption. The dissolved Cu concentration in the overlying water during sediment liquefaction phase was 1.5–2.2 times that during the consolidation phase. Sediment liquefaction also caused vertical diffusion of Cu in sediment and the diffusion depth was in accordance with the liquefaction depth. The results of the present study may provide reference for the environmental management in the study area.
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