Identical stream-bottom material samples, when fractioned to the same size by different techniques, may contains significantly different trace-metal concentrations. Precision of techniques also may differ, which could affect the ability to discriminate between size-fractioned bottom-material samples having different metal concentrations.
Bottom-material samples fractioned to less than 0.020 millimeters by means of three common techniques (air elutriation, sieving, and settling) were analyzed for six trace metals to determine whether the technique used to obtain the desired particle-size fraction affects the ability to discriminate between bottom materials having different trace-metal concentrations. In addition, this study attempts to assess whether median trace-metal concentration in size-fractioned bottom materials of identical origin differ depending on the size-fractioning technique used. Finally, this study evaluates the efficiency of the three size-fractioning techniques in terms of time, expense, and effort involved.
Bottom-material samples were collected at two sites in northeastern Ohio: One is located in an undeveloped forested basin, and the other is located in a basin having a mixture of industrial and surface-mining land uses. The sites were selected fir their close physical proximity, similar contributing drainage areas, and the likelihood that trace-metal concentrations in the bottom materials would be significantly different.
Statistically significant differences in the concentrations of trace metals were detected between bottom-material samples collected at the two sites when the samples had been size-fractioned by means of air elutriation or sieving. Statistical analyses of samples that had been size fractioned by settling in native water were not measurably different in any of the six trace metals analyzed.
Results of multiple comparison tests suggest that differences related to size-fractioning technique were evident in median copper, lead, and iron concentrations. Technique-related differences in copper concentrations most likely resulted from contamination of air-elutriated samples by a feed tip on the elutriator apparatus. No technique-related differences were observed in chromium, manganese, or zinc concentrations.
Although air elutriation was the most expensive size-fractioning technique investigated, samples fractioned by this technique appeared to provided a superior level of discriminations between metal concentrations present in the bottom materials of the two sites. Sieving was an adequate lower-cost but more labor-intensive alternative.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Influence of size-fractioning techniques on concentrations of selected trace metals in bottom materials from two streams in northeastern Ohio