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Environmental geochemistry and sediment quality in Lake Pontchartrain: database development and review

October 21, 1997

This paper reports on preliminary results of a project to develop a comprehensive data base of chemical and environmental information on sediments from Lake Pontchartrain, Louisiana, and surrounding water bodies. The goal is to evaluate all data for reliability and comparability, and to make it widely accessible and useful to all users. Methods for processing heterogeneous, historical data follow previous methods employed in the Boston Harbor and Massachusetts Bay area.

Data from 11 different data sets, encompassing about 900 total samples, have been entered to date. Questionable or anomalous data were noted in a minority of cases. Problems tend to follow distinct patterns and are relatively easy to identify. Hence, comparability of data has not proven to be the major obstacle to synthesis efforts that was anticipated in earlier years (NRC, 1989).

Quality-controlled data sets show that the bulk of sediment samples in the more central parts of Lake Pontchartrain have values within normal background for heavy metals like Cu, Pb, and Zn. The same or lower concentrations were found in the vicinity of the Bonnet Carre Spillway, representing influx from the Mississippi River. Mean concentrations for Cu, Pb, and Zn were 17, 21, and 74 µg/g (total dissolution analyses), respectively.

However, values as high as 267 µg/g Pb and comparable increases for other metal and organic contaminants are found in sediments within 2 km of the coastal strip of New Orleans. Additional sampling in such areas and in other inland coastal waterways is needed, since such levels are above the threshold for potential toxic effects on benthic organisms, according to effects-based screening criteria.

The most contaminated sites, Bayou Trepagnier and Bayou Bonfouca, involve industrial areas where waste discharge has now been controlled or remediated, but where sediments may retain large concentrations of contaminants, e.g. tenths of a percent of Pb, Cr, and Zn or more for Bayou Trepagnier.

Publication Year 1997
Title Environmental geochemistry and sediment quality in Lake Pontchartrain: database development and review
Authors Frank T. Manheim, George C. Flowers, Andrew G. McIntire, Marcie Marot, Charles Holmes
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies Transactions
Index ID 70129359
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coastal and Marine Geology Program