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Mar Environ Res. 2001 Jul;52(1):51-79.

Historical contamination of PAHs, PCBs, DDTs, and heavy metals in Mississippi River Delta, Galveston Bay and Tampa Bay sediment cores.

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Texas A&M University, Department of Oceanography, Galveston 77551, USA.


Profiles of trace contaminant concentrations in sediment columns can be a natural archive from which pollutant inputs into coastal areas can be reconstructed. Reconstruction of historical inputs of anthropogenic chemicals is important for improving management strategies and evaluating the success of recent pollution controls measures. Here we report a reconstruction of historical contamination into three coastal sites along the US Gulf Coast: Mississippi River Delta, Galveston Bay and Tampa Bay. Within the watersheds of these areas are extensive agricultural lands as well as more than 50% of the chemical and refinery capacity of the USA. Despite this pollution potential, relatively low concentrations of trace metals and trace organic contaminants were found in one core from each of the three sites. Concentrations and fluxes of most trace metals found in surface sediments at these three sites, when normalized to Al, are typical for uncontaminated Gulf Coast sediments. Hydrophobic trace organic contaminants that are anthropogenic (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, DDTs, and polychlorinated biphenyls) are found in sediments from all locations. The presence in surface sediments from the Mississippi River Delta of low level trace contaminants such as DDTs, which were banned in the early 1970's, indicate that they are still washed out from cultivated soils. It appears that the DDTs profile in that sediment core was produced by a combination of erosion processes of riverine and other sedimentary deposits during floods. Most of the pollutant profiles indicate that present-day conditions have improved from the more contaminated conditions in the 1950-1970's, before the advent of the Clean Water Act.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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