Reservoir sediments from Lake Roosevelt (WA, USA) that were contaminated with smelter waste discharged into the Columbia River (BC, Canada) were examined using three measures of elemental release reflecting varying degrees of physical mixing and time scales. Aqueous concentrations of Cd, Cu, Pb, and Zn in the interstitial water of reservoir sediments, in the gently stirred overlying waters of incubated sediment cores, and in supernatants of aggressively tumbled slurries of reservoir sediments generally were higher than the concentrations from a reference site. When compared to chronic water-quality criteria, all three measures of release suggest that slag-contaminated sediments near the U.S.–Canadian border are potentially toxic as a result of Cu release and Pb release in two of the three measures. All three measures of Cd release suggest potential toxicity for one site farther down the reservoir, probably contaminated as a result of transport and adsorption of Cd from smelter liquid waste. Releases of Zn and As did not appear to be potentially toxic. Carbonate geochemistry indirectly affects the potential toxicity by increasing water hardness.
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