River system recovery following the Novaţ-Roşu tailings dam failure, Maramureş County, Romania

Bird, Graham, Brewer, Paul A., Macklin, Mark G. , Balteanu, Dan, Serban, Mihaela, Driga, Basarab and Zaharia, Sorin (2008) River system recovery following the Novaţ-Roşu tailings dam failure, Maramureş County, Romania. Applied Geochemistry, 23 (12). pp. 3498-3518. ISSN 0883-2927

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Item Type:Article
Item Status:Live Archive


The River Vişeu catchment in Maramureş County, northwestern Romania, has a long history of base and precious metal mining. Between 1994 and 2003 waste from mining activity at Baia Borşa was stored in the Novaţ-Roşu tailings pond in the upper Vişeu catchment. However, in March 2000, the tailings dam failed releasing approximately 100,000 m3 of contaminated water and 20,000 t of mineral-rich solid waste, which was routed downstream through the Rivers Novaţ, Vaser and Vişeu into the River Tisa. Following the accident metal (Cd, Cu, Pb, Zn) concentrations in river water and river channel sediment were assessed in samples collected annually (July 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2003) from 29 sites in the Vişeu catchment, downstream of the tailings pond. Additionally, the speciation of sediment-associated metals was established using a 4-stage sequential extraction procedure (SEP) and Pb isotope analysis (206/204Pb and 207/204Pb) was carried out to establish the provenance of contaminated sediments. Metal concentrations in river water were found to comply with EU directive ‘target’ values within four months of the failure. However, the impact of the spill upon river channel sediments was found to be much longer-lasting, with evidence of the delayed downstream remobilization of tailings stored within the narrow Novaţ valley following the dam failure, as well as continued inputs of contaminated sediment to the River Vişeu from the River Tisla, another mining-affected tributary. Comparison with data from other recent tailings dam failures, indicates that river system recovery rates depend upon local geomorphological conditions, hydrological regimes, and the nature and scale of post-spill clean-up operations.

Keywords:Catchments, Contamination, Copper, Dams, Digital signal processing, Disasters, Hydraulic structures, Lead, Lead alloys, Metal recovery, Metals, Mining, Pollution, Precious metals, Runoff, Sedimentation, Sedimentology, Sediments, Silica, Silicate minerals, Solid wastes, Water pollution, Zinc, Contaminated sediments, Contaminated waters, Dam failures, EU directives, Geomorphological conditions, Hydrological regimes, Metal concentrations, Mining activities, Pb isotopes, Remobilization, River channels, River systems, River waters, Romania, Sequential extraction procedures, Tailings dams, Tailings ponds, Rivers, catchment, cleanup, comparative study, dam failure, European Union, geomorphology, hydrological regime, isotopic analysis, lead isotope, river channel, river pollution, river system, sediment pollution, speciation (chemistry), tailings dam, Eurasia, Europe, Maramures, Southern Europe
Subjects:F Physical Sciences > F840 Physical Geography
Divisions:College of Science > School of Geography
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ID Code:25075
Deposited On:25 Nov 2016 10:52

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