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In the last centuries several highland river basins in the United Kingdom had a geomorphological transformation, due to mining for metals. The study area for this research is the basin of the river Swale, in northern England (map), where intent mining occurred over a period in the 18th and 19th century. With the help of erosion and deposition, sediment of floodplains which is contaminated by metals, was and still is set loose into the water flows.

The rate of contamination can oscillate remarkably, due to the main dependency on the quantity of sediment which is affected by fluvial processes. The metals are furthermore able to reside in the floodplain for millennia, thereby having the possibility to have a serious effect on the environment, even long after sediment release. Researchers used several techniques, e.g. floodplain samples, to investigate the metal concentrations per location alongside the river. The contamination of the river water itself, is left out of the picture.

The contamination patterns are dependent on the location of the mining and the aforementioned fluvial processes and are furthermore dimensionally heterogeneous, due to phenomena such as regional deposition or the natural process of covering relatively old metal-contaminated sediment with so-called clean sediment. Generally sediment upstream, has a relatively higher metal concentration, with exception of peaks at new input of tributaries or a broad stream. The levels of contamination for sediments that are exposed to the atmosphere, and sediments that are not, are in correlation, however substantially higher for the subsurface soil, which is also vertically deviate. The concentration is almost invariable over the course downstream, however decreasing at a...

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