Quantities and associations of lead, zinc, cadmium, manganese, chromium, nickel, vanadium, and copper in fresh Mississippi delta alluvium and New Orleans alluvial soils

H W Mielke, C R Gonzales, M K Smith, P W Mielke
Science of the Total Environment 2000 February 10, 246 (2-3): 249-59
The topic of this study is the effect of anthropogenic metals on the geochemical quality of urban soils. This is accomplished by comparing the metal contents and associations between two alluvial soils of the lower Mississippi River Delta, freshly deposited alluvial parent materials and alluvial soils collected from a nearby urban environment. Fresh alluvium samples (n = 97) were collected from the Bonnet Carré Spillway. The urban alluvial soil samples (n = 4026) were collected from New Orleans and stratified by census tracts (n = 286). The Spillway samples tend to have less Pb and Zn than generally noted for the baseline of natural soils. Except for Mn and V, Spillway alluvium contains significantly less metal than urban soils. For Spillway samples, the median metal content (in microg g(-1)) is 4.7 Pb, 11.1 Zn, 0.7 Cd, 164 Mn, 0.8 Cr, 3.9 Ni, 3.2 V, and 3.9 Cu. For urban soils, the median metal content (in microg g(-1)) is 120 Pb, 130 Zn, 3.2 Cd, 138 Mn, 2.1 Cr, 9.8 Ni, 3.8 V, and 12.7 Cu. Metal associations also differ between Spillway alluvium and urban alluvial soils. Fresh alluvium correlation coefficients between individual metals vary from 0.87 to 0.99 (P < 10(-13)) except for Cr which ranges from 0.57 to 0.68 (P < 10(-7)). The urban soil correlation coefficients for metals and the index value are 0.40-0.98. In urban soils, Pb, Zn, Cr, and Cu are dominant metals and highly associated, with a correlation coefficient ranging from 0.83 to 0.98 (P < 10(-25)). Their strong association justifies the use of GIS to map the integrated soil metal index (sum of the medians of metals by census tract) of New Orleans. Although also positively correlated (0.40-0.68, P < 10(-10)), Cd, Mn, Ni and V differ in their distribution in the city compared to Pb, Zn, Cr and Cu. Overall, significantly higher metal values occur in the inner city and lower values occur in outlying areas. The human health impact of the mixture of metals is not well understood. This study provides empirical data about the mixture and distribution of metals in New Orleans alluvial soils. Given common technical development, especially of traffic flows in cities, similar patterns of soil metals are expected for all US cities and probably international cities as well. Primary prevention of urban metal accumulations is necessary to enhance and sustain the development of urban culture.

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