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Article     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 62(12)

A new type of water pollution: concrete drainage infrastructure and geochemical contamination of urban waters

I. A. Wright A D , P. J. Davies B , S. J. Findlay A and O. J. Jonasson A

A School of Natural Sciences, University of Western Sydney, Locked Bag 1797, South Penrith Distribution Centre, NSW 1797, Australia.
B Department of Environment and Geography, Faculty of Science, Macquarie University, NSW 2109, Australia.
C Ku-ring-gai Council, 818 Pacific Highway, Gordon, NSW 2072, Australia.
D Corresponding author. Email: i.wright@uws.edu.au

Marine and Freshwater Research 62(12) 1355-1361 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/MF10296
Submitted: 23 November 2010  Accepted: 16 July 2011   Published: 27 October 2011

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Stormwater and other urban runoff is often conveyed by concrete infrastructure and it is plausible that the chemistry of urban streams is modified by the leaching of minerals from this infrastructure. We tested this hypothesis by analysing major anions, cations and other chemical variables from urban and reference freshwater streams in northern Sydney. Urban streams tended towards neutral pH whereas non-urban reference streams were acidic. Bicarbonate levels were more than 10 times higher and calcium concentrations were more than six times higher in urban streams than reference streams. Experimental analysis revealed that the chemistry of rainwater changed when passed through concrete pipes and down concrete gutters, suggesting dissolution of cement products from various concrete materials used for urban drainage. This study concluded that the use of concrete – particularly its application for urban drainage – is responsible for some of the modifications to urban stream geochemistry. Thus, urban geology should be considered as an important factor that contributes to the urban stream syndrome.

Additional keywords: concrete stormwater systems, hydrochemistry, Sydney, urban water quality.


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