Document Type


Date of Award



Trace elements in water, Susquehanna River, Suspended sediments, New York (State), Pollution, Analysis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Stanley K. Madan

Second Advisor

Bruce McDuffie

Third Advisor

Gilbert E. Janauer


Environmental samples from the Upper Susquehanna River Basin [river water (RW) and bottom sediments, municipal wastewaters and sewage sludge, algae and fish] were collected and analyzed for the following Trace Metals (TMs), as appropriate: Pb, Cd, Co, Ni, Cr, Cu, Zn, and total and inorganic Hg. The median and range of TMs found in RW samples help establish baseline values for the Susquehanna River near Binghamton, N.Y. Average total TMs at normal flow ranged from 0.03 μg/1 for Hg to 16 μg/1 for Zn, and the % soluble TMs ranged from 44 to 91%, the average being 70%. A new method for determining inorganic and total Hg (and “bound” Hg by difference) was developed for RW and sewage samples, a detection limit of 0.01 μg/1 being realized. Sewage influent and effluent samples from two secondary treatment plants were analyzed to determine TM levels and to evaluate the efficiency of TM removal, which was normally 60%, but higher if the influent was more polluted. The discharge of sewage effluent into the river was found to increase the concentrations of several TMs by an appreciable fraction, especially at low flow. Sludge samples revealed TM concentrations much higher than soil TMs (notably for Cd), thus the application of sludge as fertilizer needs careful study of the potential build up of toxic metals in the food chain. Benthic algae and filtered RW were analyzed for TMs to determine approximate concentration factors, which ranged from 1,400 for Cd to 7,000 for Zn. Samples of RW were collected after two storm “events” to study the distribution of TMs in the soluble and insoluble phases, as a function of depth, and to compare the results with normal flow samples. Freundlich plots show the behavior of the various TMs and their distribution between the two phases. TMs in suspended solids were in general several times higher than TMs in the silt/clay fraction of bottom sediment materials. Transport mechanism studies were initiated by measuring the uptake and release of Cd2+ and Pb2+ on clay minerals and natural suspended solids. At solution concentrations comparable to RW (5 7.5 and 3.0, RW + NTA [Nitrilotriacetic acid], synthetic seawater, and 1N Mg2+ salt solutions. Release was low in neutral RW (Cd>Pb) and complete for many of the other systems. Sewage effluent samples contained micromolar levels of complexing agents, in excess of the TM content, and several methods (using anodic stripping voltammetry with differential pulse polarography, and ion exchange) were explored for measuring the speciation of TMs and ligands in such samples.