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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 16, issue 7
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 16, 1879–1893, 2012
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-16-1879-2012
© Author(s) 2012. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 16, 1879–1893, 2012
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-16-1879-2012
© Author(s) 2012. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 05 Jul 2012

Research article | 05 Jul 2012

Mass transport of contaminated soil released into surface water by landslides (Göta River, SW Sweden)

G. Göransson1,2, M. Larson2, D. Bendz1, and M. Åkesson3 G. Göransson et al.
  • 1Swedish Geotechnical Institute, 581 93 Linköping, Sweden
  • 2Department of Water Resources Engineering, Lund University, 221 00 Lund, Sweden
  • 3Department of Earth and Ecosystem Sciences, Lund University, 223 62 Lund, Sweden

Abstract. Landslides of contaminated soil into surface water represent an overlooked exposure pathway that has not been addressed properly in existing risk analysis for landslide hazard, contaminated land, or river basin management. A landslide of contaminated soil into surface water implies an instantaneous exposure of the water to the soil, dramatically changing the prerequisites for the mobilisation and transport of pollutants. In this study, an analytical approach is taken to simulate the transport of suspended matter released in connection with landslides into rivers. Different analytical solutions to the advection-dispersion equation (ADE) were tested against the measured data from the shallow rotational, retrogressive landslide in clayey sediments that took place in 1993 on the Göta River, SW Sweden. The landslide encompassed three distinct events, namely an initial submerged slide, followed by a main slide, and a retrogressive slide. These slides generated three distinct and non-Gaussian peaks in the online turbidity recordings at the freshwater intake downstream the slide area. To our knowledge, this registration of the impact on a river of the sediment release from a landslide is one of few of its kind in the world and unique for Sweden. Considering the low frequency of such events, the data from this landslide are highly useful for evaluating how appropriate the ADE is to describe the effects of landslides into surface water. The results yielded realistic predictions of the measured variation in suspended particle matter (SPM) concentration, after proper calibration. For the three individual slides it was estimated that a total of about 0.6% of the total landslide mass went into suspension and was transported downstream. This release corresponds to about 1 to 2% of the annual suspended sediment transport for that river stretch. The studied landslide partly involved an industrial area, and by applying the analytical solution to estimate the transport of metals in the sediments, it was found that landslides may release a significant amount of pollutants if large contaminated areas are involved. However, further studies are needed to develop more detailed descriptions of the transport processes. There is also a need to increase the knowledge on possible environmental consequences in the near and far field, in a short- and long-time perspective. In summary, the release of pollutants should not be neglected in landslide risk assessments.

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