New Jersey Water Science Center
Organic Compounds and Trace Elements in Fish Tissue and Bed Sediment in the Delaware River Basin, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, and Delaware, 1998-2000
By Kristin Romanok, Jeffrey M. Fischer, Karen Riva-Murray, Robin Brightbill, and Michael Bilger
Scientific Investigations Report 2006-5150
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As part of the National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) program activities in the Delaware River Basin (DELR), samples of fish tissue from 21 sites and samples of bed sediment from 35 sites were analyzed for a suite of organic compounds and trace elements. The sampling sites, within subbasins ranging in size from 11 to 600 square miles, were selected to represent 5 main land-use categories in the DELR –forest, low-agricultural, agricultural, urban, and mixed use. Samples of both fish tissue and bed sediment were also collected from 4 “large-river” sites that represented drainage areas ranging from 1,300 to 6,800 square miles, areas in which the land is used for a variety of purposes.
One or more of the organochlorine compounds-DDT and chlordane metabolites, polychlorinated biphenyls (total PCBs), and dieldrin- were detected frequently in samples collected over a wide geographic area. One or more of these compounds were detected in fish-tissue samples from 92 percent of the sites and in bed-sediment samples from 82 percent of the sites. Concentrations of total DDT, total chlordanes, total PCBs, and dieldrin in whole white suckers and in bed sediment were significantly related to urban/industrial basin characteristics, such as percentage of urban land use and population density.
Semi-volatile organic compounds (SVOCs)-total polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), total phthalates, and phenols- were detected frequently in bed-sediment samples. All three types of SVOCs were detected in samples from at least one site in each land-use category. The highest detection rates and concentrations typically were in samples from sites in the urban and mixed land-use categories, as well as from the large-river sites. Concentrations of total PAHs and total phthalates in bed-sediment samples were found to be statistically related to percentages of urban land use and to population density in the drainage areas represented by the sampling sites.
The samples of fish tissue and bed sediment collected throughout the DELR were analyzed for a large suite of trace elements, but results of the analyses for eight elements—arsenic, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, nickel, mercury, and zinc- that are considered contaminants of concern are described in this report. One or more of the eight trace elements were detected in samples from every fish tissue and bed-sediment sampling site, and all of the trace elements were detected in samples from 97 percent of the bed-sediment sites.
The concentrations of organic compounds and trace elements in the DELR samples were compared to applicable guidelines for the protection of wildlife and other biological organisms. Concentrations of total DDT, total chlordanes, total PCBs, and dieldrin in fish-tissue samples from 14 sites exceeded one or more of the Wildlife Protective Guidelines established by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Concentrations of one or more organic compounds in samples from 16 bed-sediment sites exceeded the Threshold Effects Concentrations (TEC) of the Canadian Sediment Quality Guidelines, and concentrations of one or more of the eight trace elements in samples from 38 bed-sediment sites exceeded the TEC. (The TEC is the concentration below which adverse biological effects in freshwater ecosystems are expected to be rare.) Concentrations of organic compounds in samples from some bed-sediment sites exceeded the Canadian Probable Effects Concentrations (PEC), and concentrations of trace elements in samples from 18 sites exceeded the PEC. (The PEC is the concentration above which adverse effects to biological organisms are expected to occur frequently).
Concentrations of organic compounds and trace elements in samples from the DELR were compared to similar data from other NAWQA study units in the northeastern United States and also data from the Mobile River (Alabama) Basin and the Northern Rockies Intermontane Basin study units. Median concentrations of total DDT, total chlordanes, and total PCBs found in fish tissue in the DELR were among the highest of those from all study units compared. The opposite was true, however, for the median concentrations of organic compounds in the bed sediment: the values from the DELR were the lowest of all the study units compared. Median concentrations of trace elements in fish livers from the DELR were lower than median concentrations in most of the other study units, but the median concentrations of trace elements in bed-sediment samples from the DELR were higher than those in most of the other study units.
Comparisons of the data for sites at which samples of both fish tissue and bed sediment were collected showed significant statistical relations between the concentrations of organic compounds and trace elements in the sediment and the concentrations in fish tissue. The data also indicated that the fish were bioaccumulating certain organic compounds and trace elements.
Concentrations and the frequency of detection or organic compounds and trace elements differed among the different land-use categories. The fewest detections of organic compounds and trace elements were in samples from sites in the forest and low-agricultural areas. SVOCS, however, were detected more frequently and at higher concentrations in samples from forest areas than in samples from other land-use areas, except urban. Samples from urban areas accounted for the highest frequency of detections and highest median concentrations of most organic compounds in all land-use categories, probably a consequence of the long history of industry and urbanization in many parts of the Delaware River Basin.
Purpose and Scope
Description of Study Area
Organic Compounds and Trace Elements in Aquatic Environments
Semi-Volatile Organic Compounds
Methods of Sample Collection and Analysis
Collection and Field Processing of Samples
Laboratory Processing and Analyses of Samples
Compilation and Censoring of Data
Non-Parametric Analysis of Basin Characteristics
Comparison with Guidelines
Occurrence of Organic Compounds and Trace Elements
Organochlorine Compounds in Fish Tissue and Bed Sediment
Total Polychlorinated Biphenyls
Semi-Volatile Organic Compounds in Bed Sediment
Total Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons
Trace Elements in Fish Livers and Bed Sediment
Comparison of Concentrations and Detection Frequencies of Organic Compounds and Trace Elements in Fish Tissue and Bed Sediment
Comparison with Other Studies
Factors Affecting Distribution of Organic Compounds and Trace Elements
Forest and Low-Agricultural Land Uses
Agricultural Land Use
Mixed Land Use
Urban Land Use
Mining and Smelter Facilities
Summary and Conclusions
Appendix 1. Organochlorine compounds in whole white sucker samples and land-use category at sample collection sites, Delaware River Basin study unit, 1998-2000
Appendix 2. Organochlorine compounds in bed-sediment samples and land-use category at sample collection sites, Delaware River Basin study unit, 1998-2000.
Appendix 3. Semi-volatile organic compounds in bed-sediment samples and land-use category at sample collection sites, Delaware River Basin study unit, 1998-2000.
Appendix 4. Trace elements in white sucker liver samples and land-use category at sample collection sites, Delaware River Basin study unit, 1998-2000
Appendix 5. Trace elements in bed-sediment samples and land-use category at sample collection sites, Delaware River Basin study unit, 1998-2000.
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