Assessment of heavy metal contamination and spatial distribution in surface and subsurface sediment layers in the northern part of Lake Babrukas

Mindaugas Raulinaitis, Gytautas Ignatavičius, Stanislovas Sinkevičius, Vytautas Oškinis


It is widely accepted that heavy metal contamination in sediment, soil, and groundwater is one of the largest threats to environmental and human health. Sediments are the principle sinks for heavy metals in aquatic environments and can result in a secondary contamination source affecting the ecosystem. Analysis of heavy metal amounts in sediments and comparison with reference levels is a reliable indicator of ecosystem health, however understanding the distribution of pollutants is among most essential information for environmental research and critical for environmental management and decision-making. 64 samples were collected from surface (0–0.6 m) and subsurface (0.6–1.2 m) layers of sediments in the northern part (bay) of Lake Babrukas, which had undergone pollution by municipal wastewater in 1964–2002. The level of pollution attributed to heavy metals was evaluated using X-Ray fluorescence analysis and comparison with several reference levels (maximum allowable concentrations in soil, background concentrations in Lithuanian soils and background concentrations in Lithuanian lake sediments) in order to determine anthropogenically derived sediment contamination of bottom sediments. Spatial distribution patterns of metals in sediments were demonstrated by employing ordinary kriging interpolation. Results of heavy metal pollution analysis reveal a significant anthropogenic impact on the northern part of Lake Babrukas with concentrations of several heavy metals in both surface and subsurface layers of sediments exceeding not only background concentrations in Lithuanian soils and lake sediments, but even maximum concentrations allowable by Lithuanian legislation. Detected levels of arsenic (As), cadmium (Cd), antimony (Sb), mercury (Hg) and tin (Sn) demonstrate a significant pollution anomaly and high potential threat to the water ecosystem and even human health by exceeding maximum allowable concentration up to 10.6 times, while detected levels of chromium (Cr), copper (Cu), nickel (Ni), and zinc (Zn) show the effects of anthropogenic activity on the lake by exceeding background concentrations in Lithuanian soils and lake sediments up to 7.25 times. A comparison of heavy metal amounts and spatial distribution patterns in the two layers of sediments reveals much higher pollution levels in the subsurface (0.6–1.2 m) than surface (0–0.6 m) level by most metals, namely As, Cd, Hg, Ni, Sb and Sn, while Zn was the only metal with higher concentrations in the surface level. Spatial distribution analysis demonstrates irregular distribution of most metals due to complexity of influencing physical and chemical processes, but the general trend of high concentration anomalies stretching through the south-eastern and north-eastern parts of the bay towards its northern point is explained by former discharges of wastewater into the littoral zone of the eastern shoreline and water currents towards excess water overflow into Lake Lovka (Olauka), interconnected with Lake Babrukas in the north.


lake sediments; heavy metals; spatial distribution; spatial interpolation; kriging; X-Ray fluorescence analysis

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ISSN 0235-7224 (Print)
ISSN 2029-0586 (Online)