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Tools for assessing contaminated sediments in freshwater, estuarine, and marine ecosystems

April 16, 2010

Traditionally, concerns about the management of aquatic resources in aquatic ecosystems have focused primarily on water quality. As such, early water resource management efforts were often directed at assuring the potability of surface water or groundwater sources. Subsequently, the scope of these management initiatives expanded to include protection of instream (i.e., fish and aquatic life), agricultural, industrial, and recreational water uses. Although initiatives undertaken in the past 30 years have unquestionably improved water quality conditions, a growing body of evidence indicates that management efforts directed solely at the attainment of surface -water quality criteria may not provide an adequate basis for protecting the designated uses of aquatic ecosystems. In recent years, concerns about the health and vitality of aquatic ecosystems have begun to re -emerge in North America. One of the principal reasons for this is that many toxic and bioaccumulative chemicals, which are found in only trace amounts in water, can accumulate to elevated levels in sediments.  Some of these pollutants, such as organochlorine (OC) pesticides and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), were released into the environment long ago. The use of many of these substances has been banned in North America for 30 years or more; nevertheless, these chemicals continue to persist in the environment. Other contaminants enter our waters every day from industrial and municipal discharges, urban and agricultural runoff, and atmospheric deposition from remote sources. Owing to their physical and chemical properties, many of these substances tend to accumulate in sediments. In addition to providing sinks for many chemicals, sediments can also serve as potential sources of pollutants to the water column when conditions change in the receiving water system (for example during periods of anoxia, after severe storms).

Citation Information

Publication Year 2010
Title Tools for assessing contaminated sediments in freshwater, estuarine, and marine ecosystems
DOI 10.1002/9781444317114.ch7
Authors Donald D. MacDonald, Christopher G. Ingersoll
Publication Type Book Chapter
Publication Subtype Book Chapter
Index ID 70199094
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Columbia Environmental Research Center

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