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Large-volume waste discharges provide opportunities for sediment studies and experimentation on a regional scale during short periods of time. Studies of sedimentary dispersal systems have used (1) large-scale discharges of waste solids, (2) changed erosion rates, and (3) natural sources “labelled” by distinctive substances such as radionuclides. Physical characteristics (including grain size) and chemical and mineral composition aid identification of certain deposits of waste solids. Combustion products, including mullite from coal and soot from petroleum, are potentially useful as tracers. Industrial materials and ceramics containing minerals alien to most marine sediments may also serve as tracers. Dumping of large volumes of wastes on small areas of the continental shelf provides a useful means for experiments. Greatly increased erosion resulting from agricultural or construction activities may also afford opportunities for studies of sedimentary processes. Radionuclides have been used to study sediment movement in rivers, on continental shelves, and in ocean water.

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