Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

, Volume 24, Issue 2, pp 151-165

First online:

Survey and evaluation of contaminants in earthworms and in soils derived from dredged material at confined disposal facilities in the Great Lakes Region

  • W. Nelson BeyerAffiliated withPatuxent Wildlife Research Center, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • , Charles StaffordAffiliated withPatuxent Wildlife Research Center, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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Soils derived from dredged material were collected, together with earthworms from nine confined disposal facilities located in the Great Lakes Region. These samples were analyzed for 18 elements, 11 organochlorine pesticides, PCBs, and 24 polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. The concentrations detected in earthworms were evaluated in terms of their potential hazard to wildlife, which for the sake of the evaluation were assumed to prey entirely either on earthworms or on other soil invertebrates having similar concentrations. The soil concentrations (dry wt.) of the contaminants of greatest concern were <1.9 to 32 ppm Cd, <0.053 to 0.94 ppm Hg, 4.6 to 550 ppm Pb, and <0.1 to 1.0 ppm PCBs. The concentrations in earthworms (dry wt., ingested soil included) were as high as 91 ppm Cd, 1.6 ppm Hg, 200 ppm Pb, and 1.8 ppm PCBs. Based on laboratory toxicity studies of relatively sensitive species, and on concentration factors calculated from the earthworm and soil data, we estimated that lethal or serious sublethal effects on wildlife might be expected at concentrations of 10 ppm Cd, 3 ppm Hg, 670 ppm Pb, and 1.7 ppm PCBs in alkaline surface soils derived from dredged material. Concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in earthworms were well below those in soil.