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Recovery and validation of historical sediment quality data from coastal and estuarine areas: An integrated approach

January 1, 1999

A comprehensive database of sediment chemistry and environmental parameters has been compiled for Boston Harbor and Massachusetts Bay. This work illustrates methodologies for rescuing and validating sediment data from heterogeneous historical sources. It greatly expands spatial and temporal data coverage of estuarine and coastal sediments. The database contains about 3500 samples containing inorganic chemical, organic, texture and other environmental data dating from 1955 to 1994. Cooperation with local and federal agencies as well as universities was essential in locating and screening documents for the database. More than 80% of references utilized came from sources with limited distribution (gray literature). Task sharing was facilitated by a comprehensive and clearly defined data dictionary for sediments. It also served as a data entry template and flat file format for data processing and as a basis for interpretation and graphical illustration. Standard QA/QC protocols are usually inapplicable to historical sediment data. In this work outliers and data quality problems were identified by batch screening techniques that also provide visualizations of data relationships and geochemical affinities. No data were excluded, but qualifying comments warn users of problem data. For Boston Harbor, the proportion of irreparable or seriously questioned data was remarkably small (<5%), although concentration values for metals and organic contaminants spanned 3 orders of magnitude for many elements or compounds. Data from the historical database provide alternatives to dated cores for measuring changes in surficial sediment contamination level with time. The data indicate that spatial inhomogeneity in harbor environments can be large with respect to sediment-hosted contaminants. Boston Inner Harbor surficial sediments showed decreases in concentrations of Cu, Hg, and Zn of 40 to 60% over a 17-year period.A comprehensive database of sediment chemistry and environmental parameters has been compiled for Boston Harbor and Massachusetts Bay. This work illustrates methodologies for rescuing and validating sediment data from heterogeneous historical sources. It greatly expands spatial and temporal data coverage of estuarine and coastal sediments. The database contains about 3500 samples containing inorganic chemical, organic, texture and other environmental data dating from 1995 to 1994. Cooperation with local and federal agencies as well as universities was essential in locating and screening documents for the database. More than 80% of references utilized came from sources with limited distribution (gray Task sharing was facilitated by a comprehensive and clearly defined data dictionary for sediments. It also served as a data entry template and flat file format for data processing and as a basis for interpretation and graphical illustration. Standard QA/QC protocols are usually inapplicable to historical sediment data. In this work outliers and data quality problems were identified by batch screening techniques that also provide visualizations of data relationships and geochemical affinities. No data were excluded, but qualifying comments warn users of problem data. For Boston Harbor, the proportion of irreparable or seriously questioned data was remarkably small (<5%), although concentration values for metals and organic contaminants spanned 3 orders of magnitude for many elements or compounds. Data from the historical database provide alternatives to dated cores for measuring changes in surficial sediment contamination level with time. The data indicate that spatial inhomogeneity in harbor environments can be large with respect to sediment-hosted contaminants. Boston Inner Harbor surficial sediments showed decreases in concentrations Cu, Hg, and Zn of 40 to 60% over a 17-year period.

Citation Information

Publication Year 1998
Title Recovery and validation of historical sediment quality data from coastal and estuarine areas: An integrated approach
DOI 10.1016/S0375-6742(98)00044-2
Authors F. T. Manheim, Marilyn R. Buchholtz ten Brink, E.L. Mecray
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Geochemical Exploration
Index ID 70022035
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center

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