Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee, both of which made landfall in the U.S. between late August and early September 2011, generated record or near record water discharges in 41 coastal rivers between the North Carolina/South Carolina border and the U.S./Canadian border. Despite the discharge of substantial amounts of suspended sediment from many of these rivers, as well as the probable influx of substantial amounts of eroded material from the surrounding basins, the geochemical effects on the <63-µm fractions of the bed sediments appear relatively limited [<20% of the constituents determined (256 out of 1394)]. Based on surface area measurements, this lack of change occurred despite substantial alterations in both the grain size distribution and the composition of the bed sediments. The sediment-associated constituents which display both concentration increases and decreases include: total sulfur (TS), Hg, Ag, total organic carbon (TOC), total nitrogen (TN), Zn, Se, Co, Cu, Pb, As, Cr, and total carbon (TC). As a group, these constituents tend to be associated either with urbanization/elevated population densities and/or wastewater/solid sludge. The limited number of significant sediment-associated chemical changes that were detected probably resulted from two potential processes: (1) the flushing of in-stream land-use affected sediments that were replaced by baseline material more representative of local geology and/or soils (declining concentrations), and/or (2) the inclusion of more heavily affected material as a result of urban nonpoint-source runoff and/or releases from flooded treatment facilities (increasing concentrations). Published 2013. This article is a U.S. Government work and is in the public domain in the USA.
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The effects of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee on the bed sediment geochemistry of U.S. Atlantic coastal rivers