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Sediment quality and polychlorinated biphenyls in the Lower Neponset River, Massachusetts, and implications for urban river restoration

January 1, 1994

Efforts to restore fish passage, habitat, and recreational use of the Neponset River, a tributary to Boston Harbor, Massachusetts, have raised concerns about the sediment, water, and biota quality of the river. Consequently, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs Department of Fish and Game Riverways Program and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, studied sediment and water quality, with a specific focus on polychlorinated biphenyls, in the Neponset River.

Sediment samples were collected throughout the Neponset River and tested for elements and organic compounds including polyaromatic hydrocarbons, organochlorine pesticides, and polychlorinated biphenyls. Although enriched compared to background concentrations, sediment quality in the Neponset River was generally better than that of other urban rivers in the United States, except with respect to one constituent, polychlorinated biphenyls. Concentrations of lead, some polyaromatic hydrocarbons, and polychlorinated biphenyls in the sediment may be toxic to aquatic organisms and may pose a risk to human health. The sediment quality also fails to meet the minimum requirements set by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for lined landfill disposal.

The locations of the source(s) of polychlorinated biphenyls to the Neponset River were determined by means of congener analysis from PISCES passive water-column samplers. The PISCES data indicate a sharp increase in polychlorinated biphenyl concentrations and a substantial shift in congener pattern downstream of one PISCES sampling location near Fairmont Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts. This result indicates that the area upstream of this sampling location may be the location of a historical source of polychlorinated biphenyls to the Neponset River. The present (2003) source to the water column may likely be PCB contaminated sediment.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2004
Title Sediment quality and polychlorinated biphenyls in the Lower Neponset River, Massachusetts, and implications for urban river restoration
DOI 10.3133/sir20045109
Authors Robert F. Breault, Matthew G. Cooke, Michael Merrill
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2004-5109
Index ID sir20045109
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization