A study of metals in the Forth & Clyde Canal, Scotland, UK

Robert Cortis, Christine Davidson, Helen Keenan

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


During the early years of the industrial revolution, an urgent need was felt for improvement of shipping to be able to cope with the ever increasing demands of transportation of goods and people. This led industrialists to build the Forth & Clyde Canal to serve as a short, internal route to connect Glasgow and Edinburgh at the time when road transport was still relying on horse-drawn cabs.
The canal was, and still is, a sink for a variety of different antifouling agents that have been applied to vessels over the ages. Additionally, various industries flourished along the 56 mile stretch of the canal over the years. The waters served as a convenient location for effluent discharges at the time when environmental awareness and regulation was non-existent. Also, the canal has numerous catchment areas and is a recipient of surface water run-off and
subject to heavy sedimentation from land soils. This study aims to measure current pseudo-total (aqua regia soluble) contents of the potentially toxic elements (PTEs) Cd, Cu, Pb and Zn in the canal sediment, and compare
results with data obtained in a similar study by British Waterways in 19921. Twenty-eight samples have been obtained from the canal, with sampling points set at approximately 2 km apart, and another 3 along a short branch canal leading close to Glasgow city centre. Metal contents in the sediments were determined using flame atomic absorption spectrometry following microwave-assisted aqua regia digestion. Limits of detection (LODs) were 1.1 mg/kg (Cd), 12.8 mg/kg (Cu), 20.4 mg/kg (Pb) and 1.4 mg/kg (Zn). Levels of Cd
were generally < the LOD, Cu and Zn concentrations measured were up to a few hundred mg/kg, whilst Pb levels were higher, sometimes exceeding 3000 mg.kg. The general trend observed was that present levels are lower than those determined in 1992; this is probably due to routine dredging and sediment disposal. 1. National Sediment Sampling Scheme - Report on the Sediment Quality in British Waterways Canals and Navigations, Scotland Unpublished internal report
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 12 Apr 2011
EventInternational Conference on Environmental Geology and Health SEGH 2011 - Ormskirk, United Kingdom
Duration: 11 Apr 201114 Apr 2011


ConferenceInternational Conference on Environmental Geology and Health SEGH 2011
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • metals
  • civil engineering
  • aquatic systems
  • pollutants


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