Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marine Affairs


Sediment cores have long been used to formulate the chronology of environmental contamination. This paper will investigate the utility of sediment cores in determining the chronology of trace metal contamination in Apponaug Cove, Rhode Island. A meter-long sediment core taken from the Cove was analyzed for chromium, copper, lead, zinc and nickel as well as organic pollutants coprostanol, polyaromatic hydrocarbons, benzotriazole and clorobenzotriazole. The core represents a close to 200 year record of sediments in Apponaug Cove. The cultural/economic changes in the Watershed in addition to environmental laws composed in the State and Federal levels which may have correlated with changes in the environmental quality of the study area was evaluated. The history of economic development in the Watershed indicated that textile manufacturing activities were a vital source of commerce in the area. Although in the early 1900sthere might have been several small manufacturing businesses in the area, most of the pollution can be attributed to a single large textile firm established in 1913. Dyes used by the textile plants were likely a major contributor to the trace metal content in the core. The process of evaluating potential associations between the core data and the cultural data is presented in two ways. First, I used land use and economic data to predict the kinds of pollutants that would be expected to collect in Apponaug Cove. Second, I examined variation in pollution concentrations throughout the length of the core and attempted to predict the kinds of land use and industrial activities that could have generated the observed patterns of variations in metals and organic compounds. The results of my analyses indicate that the chromium content of the core strongly reflects the development of textile manufacturing in the Watershed. Fluctuations in the level of chromium reflected changes in production levels. Although, zinc, copper and lead were used in the textile industry as dyes, their levels did not drop as much as chromium when textile production ceased in the Watershed. New sources of these metals (non-point source pollution to paints and anodes used to protect boats). This study demonstrates the utility as well as the limitations of sediment cores for monitoring economic development and assessing the consequences of environmental management policies over extended period of time.