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Airborne transport of sulphur: Impacts on chemical composition of rivers on north shore of the St. Lawrence River (Québec)

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Abstract

The St. Lawrence North Shore region (Québec) is subject to acid precipitation entailing sulphate deposition (17 to 22 kg SO4 2− ha−1 yr−1) which poses a threat to sensitive aquatic ecosystems. Physicochemical surveys conducted in 1982–1983 revealed the extreme sensitivity of the region owing to weak mineralization of the waters (mean alkalinity of 55 μeq L−1 and conductivity of 17 μS cm−1). Calculation of the annual loads of S discharged from 21 rivers throughout the region shows atmospheric deposition as the principal source of sulphate. A decreasing west-east gradient in the concentration is interpreted in terms of the impact of long-range airborne transport, although certain local sources of S emission are not to be overlooked. Analysis of the seasonal variation in the sulphate load balance, conducted in a small drainage basin (40 km2), revealed that the sulphate anion plays a part in lowering the water pH in spring. The spring pH depression is apparently intensified by an additional input of sulphate stemming from the release of this element subsequent to accumulation in the drainage basin during summer and fall. Organic acids play a measurable role in the chemical equilibrium of surface waters in the region, particularly in the eastern sector where there is less S fallout. Low pH levels in this sector (5.5 to 6.0) point to some degree of organic acidification.

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Lachance, M., Brouard, D. & Walsh, G. Airborne transport of sulphur: Impacts on chemical composition of rivers on north shore of the St. Lawrence River (Québec). Water Air Soil Pollut 39, 311–322 (1988). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00279477

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Keywords

  • SO42
  • Drainage Basin
  • Chemical Equilibrium
  • Eastern Sector
  • Sulphate Anion