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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Heavy Metals in the Environment

Heavy Metals in an Urban Watershed in Southeastern Michigan


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 33 No. 1, p. 163-172
    Received: Feb 1, 2003

    * Corresponding author(s): kmurray@umich.edu
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  1. Kent S. Murray *a,
  2. Daniel T. Rogersb and
  3. Martin M. Kaufmanc
  1. a Department of Natural Sciences, University of Michigan-Dearborn, Dearborn, MI 48128
    b Amsted Industries, Chicago, IL 60601
    c Department of Earth and Resource Science, University of Michigan-Flint, Flint, MI 48502


The occurrence of heavy metals in the soil was measured over a period of several years to determine background concentrations in a heavily urbanized watershed in southeastern Michigan. A spatially dispersed sample was collected to capture the inherent variability of the soils and historic land use. The analysis focused on 14 metals (antimony, arsenic, barium, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, mercury, nickel, selenium, silver, thallium, and zinc) that are part of the USEPA's list of the 129 most common pollutants. Metal concentrations were measured at three depths: near-surface (<0.5 m), shallow subsurface (0.5–10 m), and depths greater than 10 m across six soil units in glacial terrain. Additional analyses assessed the metal concentrations in each depth profile across three general land use categories: residential, commercial, and industrial. Metal concentrations were the highest in the near-surface with Pb present at concentrations averaging 15.5 times that of background in industrial areas and approximately 16 times background in residential areas. Cadmium, Hg, and Zn were also present in surface soils at levels of several times that of background. The highest concentrations of each of these metals were present in the clay-rich soils located in the eastern, more urbanized and industrialized part of the watershed. Metals detected at elevated concentrations decreased in concentration with increasing depth and distance from the urbanized and industrialized center of the watershed. Statistically significant differences in the concentrations of heavy metals were also noted between the land use categories, with Cd, Cr, Cu, Pb, Ni, and Zn observed within industrial areas at mean concentrations several times greater than background levels.

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