The Upper Silesia Region, one of the most industrialized parts of Poland and also one of the oldest industrial regions in the world, has considerably contributed to the water pollution of the Vistula and Odra Rivers, the main watercourses in Poland. Wastewater from ferrous and non-ferrous metal industry, coal mines, coal-fired power and heat generation stations, chemical industry and large amounts of municipal sewage of the four million population have been discharged to the surface water for many years. Most rivers are highly polluted in spite of some remedial action which has been undertaken.

Studies on contamination of the river water and sediments, including analysis of their fate in the river course, have been carried out in order to find effective remediation actions. Special attention has been paid to heavy metals. The total concentration and their chemical form in suspended solids and in sediments was evaluated. Sediments deposited in the river bed serve not only as a historical record, but also demonstrate a serious hazard for the future, keeping in mind the continuous changes within the environment.

The paper shows the extent of contamination of two rivers in the examples of the Biala Przemsza River (tributary of the Vistula River) charged mainly by zinc-lead industry and the Klodnica River (tributary of the Odra River) charged mainly by coal mines, steel works wastewater and municipal sewage.