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Occurrence and concentrations of selected trace elements, halogenated organic compounds, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in streambed sediments and results of water-toxicity testing in Westside Creeks and the San Antonio River, San Antonio, Texas, 20

December 1, 2016

Sediment samples and samples for water-toxicity testing were collected during 2014 from several streams in San Antonio, Texas, known locally as the Westside Creeks (Alazán, Apache, Martínez, and San Pedro Creeks) and from the San Antonio River. Samples were collected during base flow and after periods of stormwater runoff (poststorm conditions) to determine baseline sediment- and water-quality conditions. Streambed-sediment samples were analyzed for selected constituents, including trace elements and organic contaminants such as pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), brominated flame retardants, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Potential risks of contaminants in sediment were evaluated by comparing concentrations of contaminants in sediment to two effects-based sediment-quality guidelines: (1) a lower level, called the threshold effect concentration, below which, harmful effects to benthic biota are not expected, and (2) a higher level, the probable effect concentration (PEC), above which harmful effects are expected to occur frequently. Samples for water-toxicity testing were collected from each stream to provide information about fish toxicity in the study area. The trace metal lead was detected at potentially toxic concentrations greater than the PEC in both the base-flow and poststorm samples collected at two sites sampled on San Pedro Creek. The PECs for the pesticides dichlorodiphenyldichloroethane, dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, and chlordane were exceeded in some of the samples at the same two sites on San Pedro Creek. Brominated flame retardants and polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) 85, 153, and 154 were found in all streambed-sediment samples. Federal Environmental Quality Guidelines established by Environment Canada for PBDE 99 and PBDE 100 were exceeded in all samples in which PBDE 99 was detected and in a majority of the samples in which PBDE 100 was detected; the greatest concentrations occurred in samples collected at the same two sites on San Pedro Creek where the samples containing elevated lead and pesticide concentrations were collected. All concentrations of total PCBs (computed as the sum of the 18 reported PCB congeners) in the individual streambed-sediment samples were less than the threshold effect concentration, but the concentrations were elevated in the two sites on San Pedro Creek compared to concentrations at other sites. At one site on Apache Creek, 6 of the individual PAHs measured in the sample collected during base-flow conditions exceeded the PECs and 8 of the 9 PECs were exceeded in the sample collected during poststorm conditions. The total PAH concentration in the sample collected at the site during poststorm conditions was 3.3 times greater than the PEC developed for total PAHs. Average PAH profiles computed for base-flow samples and poststorm samples most closely resemble the parking lot coal-tar sealcoat dust PAH source profile, defined as the average PAH concentrations in dust swept from parking lots in six cities in the United States that were sealed with a black, viscous liquid containing coal-tar pitch. Six of ten water samples collected during base-flow conditions caused reductions in Pimephales promelas (fathead minnow) survival and were considered to be toxic.