• autumn 2000 floods;
  • River Swale;
  • contaminant metals;
  • historical metal mining;
  • sediment remobilization


During the autumn of 2000, large areas of England and Wales were affected by severe flooding, which caused widespread disruption and significant damage to property. This study attempts to determine the impact of these flood events on contaminated sediment dispersal and deposition in the River Swale catchment, Yorkshire, UK, where lead and zinc were extracted and processed in large quantities during the nineteenth century.

Seventy samples of overbank and channel-edge sediments were collected at 35 sites along the River Swale. Inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry was used to measure contaminant metal concentrations in the 2000–63 µm (sand) and <63 µm (silt and clay) size fractions. In both the channel-edge and overbank sediments collected from the upper and middle reaches of the River Swale, concentrations of lead, zinc and cadmium were found to exceed MAFF guidelines. Highest concentrations correspond to the input of contaminated material from intensively mined tributaries, and elevated levels can be observed 5–10 km downstream of these inputs. This indicates that the remobilization of contaminated material during major flood events is potentially a serious problem for activities such as agriculture that utilize the Swale floodplain. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.