Slag, a by-product from the iron and steel industry, has a range of applications within construction and is used in wastewater treatment. Historically considered a waste material, little consideration was given to the environmental impacts of its disposal. South Gare (a Site of Special Scientific Interest) located at the mouth of the Tees estuary, UK, formed on slag deposits used to create a sea wall and make the land behind permanent. Over time, ponds formed in depressions with the water chemistry, being significantly impacted by the slag deposits. Calcium levels reached 504 mg/L, nitrate 49.0 mg/L and sulphate 1,698 mg/L. These levels were also reflected in the composition of the sediment. pH (5.10–9.90) and electrical conductivity (2,710–3,598 µS/cm) were variable but often notably high. Pb, Cu and Cd were not present within the water, whilst Zn ranged from 0.027 to 0.37 mg/L. Heavy metal levels were higher in surface sediments. Zinc was most dominant (174.3–1,310.2 mg/L) followed by Pb (9.9–431 mg/L), Cu (8.4–41.8 mg/L) and Cd (0.4–1.1 mg/L). A sediment core provided a historical overview of the ponds. The ponds were unfavourable for aquatic biodiversity and unsuitable for drinking water abstraction.
- Heavy metals
- Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI)
- Water quality