Sediment is a major sink for heavy metals in river, and poses significant risks not only to river quality but also to aquatic and benthic organisms. At present in the UK, there are no mandatory sediment quality standards. This is partly due to insufficient toxicity data but also due to problems with identification of appropriate sediment monitoring and analytical techniques. The aim of this research was to examine the sampling different river sediment compartments in order to monitor compliance with any future UK sediment environmental quality standards (EQS). The significance of sediment physical and chemical characteristics on sampling and analysis was also determined. The Ravensbourne River, a tributary of the River Thames located in the highly urbanised South Eastern area of London was used for this study. Sediment was collected from the bed using the Van Veer grab, the bank using hand trowel, and from the water column (suspended sediment) using the time integrated suspended tube sampler between the period of July 2010 and December, 2011. The result for the total metal extraction carried out using aqua regia found that there were no significant differences in the metal concentrations retained in the different compartments by the <63μm sediment fraction but there were differences between the 63μm-2mm fractions of the bed and bank. The metal concentration in the bed, bank and suspended sediment exceeded the draft UK sediment quality guidelines. Sequential extraction was also carried out to determine metal speciation in each sediment compartment using the Maiz et al. (1997) and Tessier et al. (1979) methods. The Maiz et al. (1997) found over 80% of the metals in each sediment compartment were not bioavailable, while Tessier et al. (1979) method found most of the metals to be associated with the Fe/Mn and the residual phase.
The bed sediment compartment and the <2mm (<63μm + 63μm-2mm) fraction appears to be the most suitable sediment sample for sediment monitoring from this study.