Historical trace metal accumulation in the sediments of an urbanized region of the Lake Champlain watershed, Burlington, Vermont

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This study documents the history of pollution inputs in the Burlington region of Lake Champlain, Vermont using measurements of anthropogenic metals (Cu, Zn, Cr, Pb, Cd, and Ag) in four age-dated sediment cores. Sediments record a history of contamination in a region and can be used to assess the changing threat to biota over time and to evaluate the effectiveness of discharge regulations on anthropogenic inputs. Grain size, magnetic susceptibility, radiometric dating and pollen stratigraphy were combined with trace metal data to provide an assessment of the history of contamination over the last 350 yr in the Burlington region of Lake Champlain. Magnetic susceptibility was initially used to identify land-use history for each site because it is a proxy indicator of soil erosion. Historical trends in metal inputs in the Burlington region from the seventeenth through the twentieth centuries are reflected in downcore variations in metal concentrations and accumulation rates. Metal concentrations increase above background values in the early to mid nineteenth century. The metal input rate to the sediments increases around 1920 and maximum concentrations and accumulation rates are observed in the late 1960s. Decreases in concentration and accumulation rate between 1970 and the present are observed, for most metals. The observed trends are primarily a function of variations in anthropogenic inputs and not variations in sediment grain size. Grain size data were used to remove texture variations from the metal profiles and results show trends in the anthropogenic metal signals remain. Radiometric dating and pollen stratigraphy provide well-constrained dates for the sediments thereby allowing the metal profiles to be interpreted in terms of land-use history.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

Water, Air, and Soil Pollution