Contaminated landslide runout deposits in rivers – Method for estimating long-term ecological risks
Journal article, 2018

The potential catastrophic event of a landslide bringing contaminants to surface waters has been highlighted in public media, but there are still few scientific studies analyzing the risk of landslides with contaminated soil. The aim of this study is to present a method to estimate the risk of potential long-term ecological effects on water bodies due to contaminated soil released into a river through a landslide. The study constitutes further development of previous work focusing on the instantaneous (short-term) release of contaminants and associated effects. Risk is here defined as the probability of surface water failing to comply with environmental quality standards (EQS). The transport model formulation is kept simple enough to allow for a probabilistic analysis as a first assessment of the impact on the river water quality from a landslide runout deposit containing contaminated soil. The model is applied at a contaminated site located adjacent to the Göta Älv River that discharges into the Gothenburg estuary, in southwest Sweden. The results from the case study show that a contaminated runout deposit will likely cause contamination levels above EQSs in the near area for a long time and that it will take several years for the deposit to erode, with the greatest erosion at the beginning when water velocities are their highest above the deposit. A contaminated landslide runout deposit will thus act as a source of contamination to the downstream water system until all the contaminated deposit has been eroded away and the contaminants have been transported from the deposit to the river, and further to the river mouth – diluted but not necessarily negligible. Therefore, it is important to prevent landslides of contaminated soil or waste, and if such events were to occur, to remove the contaminated runout deposit as soon as possible.


Water quality

Ecological risk

Probabilistic method


River erosion


G. Goransson

Swedish Geotechnical Institute (SGI)

Jenny Norrman

Chalmers, Architecture and Civil Engineering, GeoEngineering

M. Larson

Lund University

Science of the Total Environment

0048-9697 (ISSN)

Vol. 642 553-566

Subject Categories

Water Engineering

Oceanography, Hydrology, Water Resources

Environmental Sciences



More information

Latest update

9/5/2018 5