By Ellen L. Mecray, Marilyn Buchholtz ten Brink, and Bradford Butman
The New York-New Jersey metropolitan area is one of the most populated and polluted coastal regions in the United States. The area offshore of New York is used for waste disposal, transportation, recreation, and commercial and recreational fishing. The largest deposit of sewage sludge in the country has been dumped in the apex of the New York Bight (125 million cubic meters over 64 years). Harbor dredge spoils that are contaminated with heavy metals and organic pollutants also have been disposed of in the area, while additional wastes are carried directly from land by regional currents. Materials from diverse sources have added large amounts of metals, carbon, bacteria, and organic contaminants to the sea floor over the last century. These materials have been dispersed and diluted over time; however, sediments have become polluted as a result of these activities. Enforcement of environmental legislation and reduced use of the oceans for waste disposal have resulted in fewer sources of pollutants to coastal sediments in recent years.