Chemical composition of Lake Orta sediments

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Renato BAUDO *
Monica BELTRAMI
(*) Corresponding Author:
Renato BAUDO | r.baudo@iii.to.cnr.it

Abstract

Lake Orta (18.2 km2, 1.3 km3, 143 m max. depth) has been severely polluted since industrialisation of its watershed began in 1926, at which time the lake began to receive industrial effluents containing high concentrations of copper and ammonia. Chromium-, nickel-, and zinc-rich effluents from plating factories have also contributed to pollution levels, and pH -levels dropped below 4.0 as a result of the oxidation of ammonia to nitrates. More than 60 papers have documented the evolution of the chemical characteristics of both water and sediment, and the sudden decline of plankton, as well as benthos and fish. As a remedial action the lake was limed from May 1989 to June 1990 with 10,900 tons of CaCO3. The treatment was immediately effective in raising the pH and decreasing the metal concentrations in the water column, and plankton and fish communities quickly rebounded. However, the chemical characteristics of sediments were influenced by the liming to a much lesser extent. Since 900 tons of copper and the same amount of chromium were contained in the top 10 cm of sediment, it appears likely that the sediment could potentially act as a current and future source of these metals to the water column. This observation has resulted in the implementation of a vigorous monitoring regime to track the post-liming recovery of Lake Orta.

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