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Pavement alters delivery of sediment and fallout radionuclides to urbanstreams

March 16, 2020

Sediment from urban impervious surfaces has the potential to be an important vector for contaminants, particularly where stormwater culverts and other buried channels draining large impervious areas exit from underground pipes into open channels. To better understand urban sediment sources and their relation to fallout radionuclides, we collected samples of rainfall, urban sediment (pavement sediment, topsoil), streambank sediment, and fluvial sediment (suspended sediment and bed sediment) for 7Be, 210Pbex, and 137Cs analysis. The results indicate that each rainfall event tags pavement sediment with elevated activities of 7Be and 210Pbex such that runoff from impervious surfaces in the buried channel part of the stream network contains the highest activities. Pavement sediment, because it is characteristically a thin veneer, has a small mass to rainwater ratio resulting in a greater tagging of 7Be and 210Pbex activity than does topsoil on a per gram basis. An unmixing model indicated that suspended-sediment samples collected at the culvert outlet from the buried-channel network are from pavement sediment sources (45 ± 25%) with a smaller component of topsoil (22 ± 19%), and a component from streambanks (32 ± 35%) that we infer to be older channel material and subsoil eroded from within the culvert system. Downstream from the culvert, suspended sediment collected from the open-channel parts of the stream had 7Be and 210Pbex activities that were substantially reduced by the contribution of sediment from streambanks (57 ± 15%), with pavement contributions decreasing to 15 (±9%) and topsoil contributing 28 (±7%). The results highlight the utility of 7Be, 210Pbex, and 137Cs as tracers of urban sediment sources, resulting in a unique radionuclide signature for urban watersheds compared to other sediment-source settings.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2020
Title Pavement alters delivery of sediment and fallout radionuclides to urbanstreams
DOI 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2020.124855
Authors Allen Gellis, Christopher C. Fuller, Peter C. Van Metre, Barbara Mahler, C. Welty, Andrew Miller, Lucas A Nibert, Zachary Clifton, Jeremy Malen, J.T. Kemper
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Hydrology
Index ID 70212618
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Maryland-Delaware-District of Columbia Water Science Center