Sediment toxicity and status of benthic macroinvertebrate communities in the remediated Buffalo River Area-of-Concern

Science Center Objects

Background : Contaminated bed sediments in much of the Buffalo River AOC (Figure 1A, 1B) were removed (dredged) between 2011 and 2015. Plans to monitor and assess the effectiveness of this management action on 8 of 9 beneficial-use-impairments (BUI), included the benthic macroinvertebrate (benthos) BUI, were revised by the Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper (Riverkeeper, 2014). Funds needed to impl...

Background : 
 
Contaminated bed sediments in much of the Buffalo River AOC (Figure 1A, 1B) were removed (dredged) between 2011 and 2015. Plans to monitor and assess the effectiveness of this management action on 8 of 9 beneficial-use-impairments (BUI), included the benthic macroinvertebrate (benthos) BUI, were revised by the Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper (Riverkeeper, 2014). Funds needed to implement various monitoring efforts proposed in this plan, however, were not available at that time. The USGS-New York Water Science Center (NYWSC) and the NYSDEC propose a collaborative study to evaluate multiple lines of evidence (toxicity of sediments and the condition of benthic macroinvertebrate communities) to determine if recent dredging efforts have improved the quality of sediments, benthic macroinvertebrate communities, and the status of the benthos beneficial use impairment (BUI) in the Buffalo River Area-of-Concern (AOC) (Figure 1). 
 

Approach: 

In general, sediment samples will be collected once from each of 5 sites in remediated segments of the AOC and from each of 5 reference sites, located upstream of the AOC in the Buffalo River, during 2017 using either a Petite Ponar grab sampler. Acute and chronic toxicity of bed sediments will be generated by a contract laboratory using USEPA-approved methods for Chironomus dilutus and Hyallela azteca. Macroinvertebrate samples will be collected from submerged multiplates and processed by a subcontract laboratory using standard NY State methods; community metrics will be compiled by the NYSDEC Biomonitoring Unit. The USGS and NYSDEC will compare benthic-community metrics and sediment-toxicity data from AOC and non-AOC reference sites (in the Buffalo River and Tonawanda Creek), to comparable data obtained from the same sites prior to dredging (CH2MHILL, 2012), and to the benthos-BUI removal criteria to determine if the remediation has restored some or all impaired segments over the short term (2-years post dredging) in the Buffalo River AOC. The established criteria for removal of the benthos BUI in the Buffalo River AOC are:” (1) Benthic macroinvertebrate communities are non-impacted or slightly impacted according to NYSDEC indices; AND (2) In the absence of conclusive community structure data, the toxicity of sediment-associated contaminants is not statistically higher than controls.”  The basic approach for the proposed study is as follows:

1. Planning – During winter/spring of year 1, develop/refine draft work plan, and finalize logistics; obtain input/comments from RAP committee, DEC, EPA, and other stakeholders; select and finalize target study sites; and conduct reconnaissance of prospective sites to evaluate accessibility and the composition of bed sediments.

2. Contracts – During spring of year 1, the USGS and NYSDEC will establish contracts for testing acute and chronic toxicity of sediments (using USEPA-approved methods for two invertebrate species – C. dilutus and H. azteca) and identifying macroinvertebrates from sediment samples. The USGS will coordinate all work related to toxicity analyses and the NYSDEC will coordinate all work related to the macroinvertebrate community analyses.

3. Sediment sampling - Field surveys will be done during the summer of year 1, and will consist of collecting benthic-community and sediment samples once from as many as 5-to-10 sites in Buffalo River AOC and 5 sites in the upstream reference reaches of the Buffalo River. At each site, a single sediment sample will be collected by compositing 5 Petite Ponar samples and multiplates submerged for 6-8 weeks will be used to collect 5 replicate macroinvertebrate-community samples. Bed-sediment size and organic for toxicity testing a content will be quantified by a NYSDEC contract laboratory using a split from the composite sediment-toxicity sample.

4. Process samples – The sediment toxicity and macroinvertebrate community samples will be processed independently as follows:

Subtask 4a: Sediment toxicity tests will be done by a contract laboratory during summer/fall of year 1 to define the current levels of toxicity in sediments from study sites in the AOC. Acute (survival) and chronic (growth) toxicity tests will be conducted using C. dilutus and H. azteca and follow standard USEPA-approved methods (USEPA, 2000).

Subtask 4b: At least 100 macroinvertebrates will be picked from debris for each sample/replicate using sorting methods described in Smith, Heitzman & Duffy (2009). The individual organisms will be identified by the contractors and their counts will be compiled into electronic datasheets and used by the NYSDEC staff to calculate the overall BAP and component metrics: SPP (species richness), HBI (Hilsenhoff Biotic Index), DOM3 (Dominance-3), PMA (Percent Model Affinity), and DIV (species diversity) (Bode et al., 2002; Smith, Heitzman & Duffy, 2009).

5. Analyze results – The USGS and NYSDEC will conduct graphical and statistical analyses, including multivariate ordination methods, to summarize current post-remediation toxicity and the condition of macroinvertebrate communities in sediments from the Buffalo River AOC during winter/spring of year 2. The 2016 toxicity data and macroinvertebrate community metrics from AOC sites will be compared to analogous data obtained from (a) the same sites prior to dredging (CH2MHILL, 2012), (b) reference sites located upstream from the AOC, and (c) reference sites in Tonawanda Creek (surveys done in 2014 and 2015) to determine if the differences in toxicity or condition of macroinvertebrate assemblages differ significantly before and after remediation and between AOC and reference sites. These findings will be used to determine if the benthos-BUI is applicable or if it might be removed in this AOC.

6. Prepare draft publication – A draft report or journal article will be completed by the USGS and NYSDEC within five months (year 2) of verifying all toxicity and taxonomic data received from contract laboratories.

7. Publish final report/paper – The draft report/paper will undergo technical and editorial USGS review and outside peer reviews, and be revised during years 2 and 3. It will be published either as a USGS report or as a peer-reviewed journal article during year 3.

References:

Bode R.W., Novak M.A., Abele L.E., Heitzman D.L. & Smith A.J. (2002) Quality Assurance Work Plan for Biological Stream Monitoring in New York State. pp. 115. N.Y. State Department of Environmental Conservation, Albany, New York.

Ch2mhill. (2012) Data Summary Report Buffalo River AOC Baseline Remedial Assessment Study, Buffalo, New York. . pp. 81. CH2MHILL, Meridian, Colorado.

Riverkeeper B.N. (2014) Buffalo River Area of Concern: A Monitoring Plan for the Delisting of "Impaired" Beneficial Use Impairments. pp. 20. Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, Buffalo, NY.

Smith A.J., Heitzman D.L. & Duffy B.T. (2009) Standard Operating Procedure: Biological Monitoring of Surface Waters in New York State, pp. 159, Vol. NYSDEC SOP 208·09. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Albany, NY.

USEPA. (2000) Methods for measuring the toxicity and bioaccumulation of sediment associated contaminants with freshwater invertebrates. Second Edition, Vol. EPA 600/R-99/064. US Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development, Duluth, MN.

Project Location by County

Erie County, NY