Sediment quality in Burlington Harbor, Lake Champlain, U.S.A.

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Surface samples and cores were collected in 1993 from the Burlington Harbor region of Lake Champlain. Sediment samples were analyzed for trace metals (cadmium, copper, lead, nickel, silver and zinc), simultaneously extracted metal/acid volatile sulfide (SEM-AVS), grain size, nutrients (carbon and nitrogen) and organic contaminants (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)). The concentrations of cadmium, copper, silver and zinc from the partial sediment digestion of the surface samples correlated well with each other (r2 > 0.60) indicating that either a common process, or group of processes determined the sediment concentrations of these metals. In an analysis of the spatial distribution of the trace metals and PAHs, high surficial concentrations were present in the southern portion of the Harbor. The trace metal trend was strengthened when the concentrations were normalized by grain size. A sewage treatment plant outfall discharge was present in the southeastern portion of the Harbor at the time of this study and is the major source of trace metal and PAH contamination. Evaluation of sediment cores provides a proxy record of historical trace metal and organic inputs. The peak accumulation rate for copper, cadmium, lead, and zinc was in the late 1960s and the peak silver accumulation rate was later. The greatest accumulation of trace metals occurred in the late 1960s after discharges from the STP began. Subsequent declines in trace metal concentrations may be attributed to increased water and air regulations. The potential toxicity of trace metals and organic contaminants was predicted by comparing contaminant concentrations to benchmark concentrations and potential trace metal bioavailability was predicted with SEM-AVS results. Surface sample results indicate lead, silver, ∑PAHs and ∑PCBs are potentially toxic and/or bioavailable. These predictions were supported by studies of biota in the Burlington Harbor watershed. There is a clear trend of decreasing PAH and trace metal contaminant concentrations with distance from the STP outfall.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

Water, Air, and Soil Pollution