Deployment of DGT units in marine waters to assess the environmental risk from a deep sea tailings outfall

John Sherwood, Darlene Barnett, Neil Barnett, Kylie Dover, Julia Howitt, Hiroyuki Ii, Peter Kew, Julie Mondon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


Measurements of total, filterable and DGT-labile concentrations of nine metals (Al, Cd, Cr, Cu, Fe, Pb, Mn, Ni and Zn) have been made at five sites up to 4.2 km from a deep sea tailings outfall operated by Lihir Gold Ltd. at Lihir Island, Papua New Guinea. At each site, pairs of DGT units (one containing a 0.4 mm and the other a 0.8 mm diffusive gel layer) were deployed at three depths (50'70; 105'130; 135'155 m) for 4'7 days. Comparison of predicted water column DGT-labile metal concentrations in field deployments showed the 0.8 mm DGT units were relatively enriched in metals, with the effect being greatest closer to the outfall for Pb and Mn and least for Fe, Cr, Ni and Zn. The most likely explanation for this is that in addition to simple ion diffusion, kinetic factors associated with ageing or desorption processes govern release of metals from iron and aluminium oxyhydroxide colloids which diffuse through the gels. The thicker gels have a longer residence time over which metals can be released for adsorption. This model explains why enrichment is most pronounced near the outfall; more distant sites have lower colloid concentrations because of the longer time for coagulation to increase particle sizes to the extent they cannot enter the gels.Total and filterable metal (FM) concentrations were frequently below the limits of detection (LOD) achievable by conventional ICP-AES (1'52 'g L'1) and this limited their usefulness for assessing environmental risk and for metal speciation determination. Because of its pre-concentration step DGT gave metal concentrations above their LODs and these decreased exponentially with distance from the outfall. Concentrations of DGT'labile metal fell below Australian water quality guidelines for protection of 99% of marine organisms within 0.13 km of the outfall for Cd, Cr and Ni and below that for protection of 95% of marine organisms within 0.4, 0.7 and 3.6 km for lead, zinc and copper, respectively.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)215-223
Number of pages9
JournalAnalytica Chimica Acta
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2009

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Deployment of DGT units in marine waters to assess the environmental risk from a deep sea tailings outfall'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this