A method to separate sediments into discrete size fractions for geochemical analysis has been tested. The procedures were chosen to minimize the destruction or formation of aggregates and involved gentle sieving and settling of wet samples. Freeze-drying and sonication pretreatments, known to influence aggregates, were used for comparison. Freeze-drying was found to increase the silt/clay ratio by an average of 180 percent compared to analysis of a wet sample that had been wet sieved only. Sonication of a wet sample decreased the silt/clay ratio by 51 percent. The concentrations of metals and organic carbon in the separated fractions changed depending on the pretreatment procedures in a manner consistent with the hypothesis that aggregates consist of fine-grained organic- and metal-rich particles. The coarse silt fraction of a freeze-dried sample contained 20-44 percent higher concentrations of Zn, Cu, and organic carbon than the coarse silt fraction of the wet sample. Sonication resulted in concentrations of these analytes that were 18-33 percent lower in the coarse silt fraction than found in the wet sample. Sonication increased the concentration of lead in the clay fraction by an average of 40 percent compared to an unsonicated sample. Understanding the magnitude of change caused by different analysis protocols is an aid in designing future studies that seek to interpret the spatial distribution of contaminated sediments and their transport mechanisms. ?? 1993 Springer-Verlag.
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A procedure for partitioning bulk sediments into distinct grain-size fractions for geochemical analysis