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Sediment dynamics drive contaminant dynamics

January 1, 2003

Many contaminants of greatest concern in San Francisco Bay, including mercury and PCBs, are primarily associated with sediment particles rather than dissolved in water. Therefore, the movement and fate of sediment determines the movement and fate of many contaminants in the Bay. Because of this close association, the RMP monitors and seeks to understand the quantity and movement of sediment suspended in the water. Through study of suspended sediment dynamics, the RMP is developing a better understanding of trends and patterns of contaminants and how the Bay will respond to management actions during the next several decades. Recent RMP efforts to develop predictive models of contaminant fate in the Bay have highlighted the fundamental importance of understanding sediment dynamics.

Sediment movement in the Bay is determined by tides, wind, and freshwater inflow. Tides flood and ebb twice a day, wind typically is strongest in the afternoon, and freshwater inflow is greatest during the winter rainy season (see sidebar on next page). To characterize these fluctuations, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) began continuous monitoring of suspended sediment concentration in 1991. Continuous suspended sediment concentration monitoring stations were established in each major region of San Francisco Bay (Figure 1), establishing a continuous monitoring network. The sensors at each station measure the amount of material in the water every 15 minutes. Results are available on the internet at . In addition to the network, sensors have been deployed at as many as 14 additional sites in the Bay for periods of several months as part of focused studies of sediment transport in Bay locales of special interest.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2003
Title Sediment dynamics drive contaminant dynamics
Authors David H. Schoellhamer, Gregory Shellenbarger, Neil K. Ganju, Jay A. Davis, Lester J. McKee
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype Other Report
Series Title Pulse of the Estuary
Series Number 2003
Index ID 70174324
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization San Francisco Bay-Delta; Pacific Regional Director's Office